Friday, 17 June 2011

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

That’s it my friends. It’s all over.

I knew in my heart it must be. But still, a little quiver of hope arose in my breast when I saw Tesco were doing 2 for £2.50 on what I dared to believe was the tail end of the season’s harvest.

Not so. When my shopping arrived on Tuesday evening, the asparagus within was from Peru.

So, looks like British asparagus is done and dusted for another year. And, since I really wouldn’t bother with the Peruvian stuff as a general rule, that’s another ten or so months before I can enjoy it’s rich, greeney goodness again (to me, the best way to describe the flavour of asparagus is just to say it tastes “green”. You can understand why I don’t hold out any hope for a long-term career as a food writer). Anyway, to celebrate and commiserate in equal measure, (and to give me some inspiration next year) here’s a little retrospective of the whirlwind romance of the season.

It started off simple, classic. Egg, lemon, salty cheese, all classic asparagus adjuncts. But this dish was so much more than the sum of its parts.

I could never decide whether to steam or roast my asparagus until the lovely Mr Heston Blumenthal introduced me to a method that gave me the best of both worlds. Oh, and his soft boiled egg and smoked salmon and asparagus soldiers combo was pretty tasty and worked equally well when the smoked salmon was subbed for Parma ham.

Asparagus doesn’t always have to be the star of the show – it doesn’t mind playing a supporting role as long as you keep the accompanying flavours simple with a bit of zing. We’ve had it with simple roast chicken and lemon couscous (which is always a favourite dish in our household at this time of year) and also with some lovely, garlicky lamb and a fresh little potato salad.

And finally, this dish which I cooked the other night despite the fact that Tesco failed to provide me with the Real Deal. It was very simple and very tasty, and is recorded here for posterity so I remember to cook it again. Please don’t judge me for using a cream substitute (here, Elmlea) – there is simply no way I can build 70ml of full fat double cream into my daily points allowance without subsisting on dust for the rest of the day. And the dish itself didn’t appear to suffer overly much for my shortcomings – although I imagine should you use proper double cream you’d end up with something even more luxurious and decadent.

Asparagus Cream Pasta


1 bunch of asparagus
142ml reduced fat double cream substitute
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and slightly bruised
40g Parmesan, half finely grated, the other shaved
200g pasta

Serves 2, 19 pro points per serving

Put a large sauce pan of salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, snap the woody ends from your asparagus and slice off the tips.

Boil the asparagus stalks for about five minutes – I reckon that slightly overcooking them makes them softer and easier to blend later on.

Remove the stalks from the water and drain. Tip your pasta into the water, bring back to the boil and set a timer for 10 minutes.

Now put your cream into a small saucepan, add your garlic cloves and bring slowly up to the boil. When it gets there remove from the heat, stir through the finely grated Parmesan and put the resulting mixture into a blender along with the asparagus stalks. Whizz up into a beautiful pale green sauce. You could remove the garlic but I wouldn’t bother – it doesn’t overpower by any means.

2 minutes before the pasta is ready, thrown the tips into the boiling water.

Drain the pasta and asparagus tips, stir through the sauce over a gentle heat to warm through. Taste for seasoning – Parmesan is quite salty so you will need to be judicious with the salt, but I like plenty of scrunches of black pepper here, and then serve with the Parmesan shaving strewn over the top.

1 comment:

  1. I too am in mourning for asparagus - but really, really looking forward to cherries.