British Asparagus starts to appear in the shops around May time. Locally, Secretts of Milford are famed for their asparagus, which they pick when it’s perfectly ready to eat. Harvested every day for the farm shop and restaurant trade, they have become famous throughout the region for this lovely vegetable. Delicious steamed with hollandaise sauce or butter, it also makes a great addition to soups and other recipes. Here Secretts and VantagePoint have teamed up with food writer Shirlee Posner from local food blog Eat Surrey to introduce two new recipes.
Early Summer Asparagus Soup with Basil Oil
1 x 15ml spoon olive oil; a handful of green garlic shoots or 2 salad onions, finely chopped; 1 red onion, finely chopped; 1 clove smoked garlic, crushed; 150g-200g fresh asparagus spears, halved lengthways for bigger spears; 150g fresh broad beans, podded weight; 200g courgettes, cut into julienne or spiralised; 1 litre of fresh chicken stock; 2 x 15ml spoons of crème fraiche; salt and freshly ground black pepper.
For the basil oil: 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, 4 x 15ml spoons extra virgin olive oil.
1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the green garlic, salad and red onion, sweat with the lid on the pan for 4-5 minutes then add the smoked garlic.
2. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the asparagus, broad beans and courgettes. Simmer for 7-8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
3. While the soup is cooking put the ingredients for the basil oil into a blender and blitz.
4. Stir the crème fraiche into the soup with 2–3 spoons of basil oil.
5. Season the soup and serve with an extra spoon of cream a drizzle of oil and a sprig of fresh herbs.
6. Serve with crusty bread.
Pan-fried Gnocchi with Pistachio Pesto and Asparagus
25g fresh basil leaves; 2 smoked garlic cloves, finely chopped; 75ml olive oil, plus extra for frying; 4 tbsp pistachio kernels, toasted; 1 teaspoon lemon rind and 1 tablespoon lemon juice; 50g Pecorino Romano cheese, grated; 1 x 500g pack fresh gnocchi; 200g trimmed fresh asparagus ; 100g fine green beans, halved; 50g fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and drained; 75g feta cheese, crumbled; ½ teaspoon pink peppercorns crushed (optional).
1. First make the pesto by putting the basil, garlic, olive oil, 3 tablespoons of the pistachios, lemon rind and juice in a food processor; process to form a rough paste. Stir in the cheese and season.
2. Heat a large frying pan with a little olive oil, add the gnocchi and toss gently over a medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until lightly golden.
3. Meanwhile, steam the asparagus and beans for 2-3 minutes until just tender and drain.
4. Roughly chop the remaining pistachios for the garnish. Add the pesto to the gnocchi and toss together.
5. Gently stir in the beans and asparagus and then wilt in the spinach.
6. Divide between 2 plates and scatter over the feta cheese and the rest of the pistachio nuts and pink peppercorns to serve.
Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Parmesan
This is one of my favourites and perfect as a starter. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Put some trimmed asparagus spears into an oven-proof dish and add chopped or minced garlic and some olive oil. Dot with butter, season with salt and pepper and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Add some grated parmesan and serve. Stefan Reynolds
Asparagus tips and eggy loveliness for brunch! Take 4-5 stems of asparagus per person and wrap each individual stem with the pancetta or streaky bacon. Pop these on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Place in a preheated oven 170 fan until the pancetta is crispy. Whilst these are cooking, poach some large eggs making sure the yolks are lovely and runny. Drain really well. Assemble on warmed plates the asparagus tips with eggs to the side, adding a little butter, sea salt, finely chopped parsley and pepper to the eggs. Deliciously simple. Liz Godfrey
Do you have any asparagus recipes you want to share? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.