Category / Recipes

Asparagus Season

Asparagus Season

It’s a special Asparagus season this year because it’s the first for the Vale of Evesham under its new protected status.   It now enjoys an elite group from potatoes to Champagne which is great news for the growers.  Green asparagus, grown within the defined geographical area of the Vale, produced between the months of April and July can legitimately carry the PDO label.  The point is that this status helps combat imitators and increases competition throughout Europe.  Good news too, post-Brexit, for those protected food products should be able to keep their PDO if Britain ensures there’s reciprocity with European growers.

Asparagus Season

The Vale has been growing asparagus since at least 1768, and the annual Asparagus Festival attracts lovers of the vegetable from all around the world.  Saint George’s Day marks the start of the Asparagus season, ending in June.

Traditionally matched with a good Hollandaise Sauce, there’s nothing quite like freshly picked Asparagus direct from the source.

If you can’t make it to Evesham, keep an eye out for it in the shops.

To buy Asparagus at its best, look for firm and tender stalks with good colour and closed tips.  In my experience, the thicker the asparagus, the better the taste.  Once picked it starts to deteriorate so if you can eat on the day you buy it.  A good way to store is in a damp kitchen towel.  Before you eat it, you’ll need to snap off the woody base.  They break exactly where the delicate stalk ends, and the woody part begins.  Wash in cold water.  Boil or Steam (the latter being my preference) until al dente.  You can buy an asparagus steamer which cooks the spears from the bottom, allowing the delicate tips to remain so.

Here’s the only Hollandaise Recipe you’ll need.

Hollandaise Recipe (adapted from Julia Childs recipe)

3 egg yolks
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
225g, melted unsalted butter
A little cayenne pepper
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Method

Add egg yolks the water and lemon juice to a bowl and blend.  Melt the butter in a microwave then add slowly with a stick blender or whisk. Add salt and cayenne.

Tip the sauce over the lightly steamed Asparagus.

Asparagus Season

Recipe: Pimp Your Brussels Sprouts

Am I weird in loving Brussels Sprouts?  Miniature cabbages, either loved or hated, giver of flatulence but on the plus side, they come with plenty of health benefits.  They lower cholesterol, aid digestion and if you don’t cook them until they’re totally lifeless, tasty.  You’ve probably got memories of overcooked sprouts, served for days on end after Christmas but because we can’t eat, on the whole, eat seasonally in this country, they’re available most of the year around.  There are hundreds of recipes for them, but this is a little cracker from my lovely friends at Riverford.   Don’t be put off by the garlic, because it’s roasted and is not harsh in any way.

Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Brussels Sprout & Pancetta Pasta with Sage & Roast Garlic Cream

Ingredients

1 whole garlic bulb
200ml double cream
1tbsp Olive Oil
250g Pancetta (I used the ready-cubed from Waitrose which is excellent)
1 onion, finely sliced (I diced mine)
8 sage leaves, finely sliced
Small glass of white wine
400g pasta, I used penne
500g Brussels Sprouts (halved or quartered)
4 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated
Salt & black pepper to taste

Method

Peel off the thick white coating on your bulb but make sure you don’t take off the core because you want the cloves to keep together.  Cut the tip of the head from your garlic bulb.  Expose the ends of the cloves and place on a square of foil.  Add a drizzle of olive oil and wrap up.  Bake in an oven at 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for about 50 minutes or until soft.  Once cooked, leave to cool and squeeze out the soft garlic from each housing.

Roasted garlic bulb

Their recipe says to save half, I used the whole thing, and add it to the cream.  I used my stick blender for this.

You’ll need two pans of salted water.  One for the pasta and another for your Brussels Sprouts, I always steam mine because you don’t stew or remove all the benefits of the vegetable.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan, I always use a wok, add the pancetta and fry until golden brown,  The pancetta should ooze quite a bit of oil so you should just use a slotted spoon to remove it and use this to cook your chopped onions.  You want a gentle heat under these because you’re aiming for translucent and soft rather than crisp and brown.  Add the pancetta and sliced Sage to the pan, turn up the heat and stir for 2 minutes.

Cream, Pancetta & Sage Sauce

Next, cook the pasta, according to the packet instructions.

Then add the wine and let it reduce for a few minutes, add your garlic cream and let it bubble away, again for a couple of minutes.

When the pasta is ready, drain and reserve some of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, blanch the sprouts in the other pan for 3/4 minutes, depending on the size.  You want them cooked with a slight bite.  Drain. Stir half the Parmesan into your cream sauce, then add the cooked pasta and sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts, Pancetta, Sage & Cream sauce

Adding the pasta water to loosen the mix, if you need it.  Season to taste.  Sprinkle the dish with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Brussels Sprout & Pancetta Pasta with Sage & Roast Garlic Cream