The British asparagus season has officially started and will run until the end of June, so make the most of this delicious vegetable whilst it’s available. Asparagus is very climate dependent; the temperature of the soil must be at least 10ºc before it will begin to grow, so if it has been a warm spring then it is possible to see the first asparagus spears on the shelves by late April.
Asparagus growers in the warmer, south of the country will traditionally harvest their crop first around April – growers further north may not start until a few days later. Although asparagus can be grown under polythene, allowing it to be ready in limited quantities early in April, the bulk of the crop will be available when the main season gets underway later in the month.
British asparagus is hailed by leading chefs and connoisseurs as the best in the world, and while we might all grumble about the British weather, our climate allows asparagus stems to develop slowly producing a full and sweet flavour and a fine, tender texture, quite unlike any other crop. Because it is grown on our doorstep, we can enjoy British asparagus at its most flavoursome and nutritious.
So, for those who enjoy asparagus, here are a few divine recipes to try out:
Crusted Salmon with Asparagus, Rocket and Preserved Lemon Salad
1tsp crushed cumin seeds1tsp crushed coriander seeds1tsp sesame seeds1 tsp smoked paprika1 tsp allspice1 tsp soft light muscovado sugar Small bunch parsley roughly chopped Salt and cracked black pepper 4 pieces of Scottish salmon fillet, scales removed4tbsp olive oil 2 bundles of British asparagus trimmed1 preserved lemon, seeds and flesh removed 1 shallot thinly sliced 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced 2 plum tomatoes cut into chunks 2 handfuls rocket washed 4tbsp Greek yogurtExtra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1. Preheat the oven to 180°c -350°f, gas mark 6
2. In a bowl, mix the cumin, coriander, sesame seeds, paprika, allspice, sugar and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Sprinkle the mixture all over the flesh side of the salmon and drizzle over the olive oil.
4. Bring a medium sized pan of salted water to the boil. Place in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, then cool and set aside.
5. In a hot non-stick frying pan seal the salmon skin side down first, then place in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
6. While you are waiting for the salmon to cook, chop the lemon skin and place in a medium sized bowl. Then add the asparagus, shallots, chilli, tomatoes, rocket and a splash of extra virgin olive oil, season and mix.
7. When the salmon is cooked, divide between 4 warm plates, top with the salad. Finish with a spoonful of yogurt, cracked pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Asparagus and Avocado with Broad Bean, Olive and Basil Salad
2 bundles of British asparagus, cut into 5 cm lengths 1 ripe avocado, stoned, peeled and cut into large cubes 1 tomato, skinned, deseeded and diced 100g broad beans, blanched and peeled 60g mixed olives, stoned 25g basil leaves, roughly torn
For the dressing:
3 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the asparagus for 3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water.
2. Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing, and season with sea salt and black pepper. Place the broad beans, olives and half of the basil in a bowl and toss in 1 tbsp of the dressing.
3. Arrange the asparagus and avocado on 4 serving plates. Sprinkle with the diced tomato and remaining basil leaves, and drizzle with the dressing. Serve with the broad bean salad on the side, and some hot, crusty bread.
Submitted by Gennaro de Borbon, Revenue Manager at The Abbey