Asparagus - Annie Stirk's recipes

PUBLISHED: 19:37 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 19:14 29 October 2014

Finished dish - hot pan fried asparagus with smoked salmon garnished with parmesan

Finished dish - hot pan fried asparagus with smoked salmon garnished with parmesan

Asparagus is not just a delicious starter. Discover how to use this versatile ingredient in different dishes with the help of our food and wine consultant, Annie Stirk PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDY BULMER

The beginning of May marks the official start of the British asparagus season but sadly it is all too short, lasting about six weeks, so do make the most of this star vegetable.

The asparagus season brings a real sense of anticipation that, at last, summer is just around the corner and there is the prospect of some fresh and light seasonal dishes. We have all had our fill of comfort foods after a particularly cold winter, and I for one can't wait to enjoy the lovely locally grown asparagus, along with delicious fresh herbs, and young and tender vegetables and salads, which are all perfect partners.

Bundles of asparagus 'en masse' are a visual treat. I remember being stopped in my tracks at a produce market in Nice a few years ago - by whole market stalls piled high with purple, green and white asparagus. It looked amazing! We can't quite compete with the range of colours here, but it is still an extraordinary sight to see the tightly packed bundles of green asparagus displayed in our local farm shops.

Asparagus makes a great starter, but is really versatile which tossed into creamy risottos, pasta dishes, quiches and tarts, omelettes and tortillas. It is also great with chicken or salmon, and tastes delicious accompanied by a variety of sauces such as lemon, mustard or herb vinaigrettes or a tangy tarragon.

If you are fond of that much loved nursery favourite boiled egg and soldiers, why not try this cheeky little idea: forget the toast, try dipping a delicious asparagus spear into a softly boiled egg instead. Just delicious!

ASPARAGUS WITH HOLLANDAISE SAUCE

Serves 4

Ingredients

450g bunch of fresh asparagus

1 jar of hollandaise sauce

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Method

Wash the asparagus in a colander and snap the end of each individual spear. With a sharp knife you can then even up the base of each spear. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and drop the asparagus into the water. Swish around and cook for just 2-3 minutes, depending on how thick the stems are. If the asparagus is quite thin, you will only need to cook it for a minute.

Fish out the asparagus with a draining spoon, and place immediately into a roomy bowl full of really cold or iced water. This will keep the asparagus looking a lovely bright green colour and stop it cooking further.

Leave for a few minutes in the cold water and then serve piled onto a dish or onto individual plates. Dust with black pepper and salt, and accompany with delicious hollandaise sauce for dipping.

PAN FRIED ASPARAGUS WITH CHILLI AND GARLIC DRESSING

Serves 4

Ingredients

25g butter

1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil

2-3 red chillies, deseeded and finely diced

2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

450g of fresh Thai asparagus, washed and trimmed

Method

Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or alternatively use a griddle pan.

Add the butter and oil, followed by the chillies and garlic. Sauté together taking care not to burn the garlic. After a couple of minutes throw in the Thai asparagus and stir well to coat with the buttery chilli and garlic juices.

Continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes until the asparagus is 'al dente'. Pile on to a large serving dish and serve immediately.

ASPARAGUS WRAPPED IN PROSCIUTTO WITH PARMESAN AND BLACK PEPPER

Serves 4

Ingredients

250g pack of prosciutto

450g bunch of fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed

rapeseed oil

150g block of fresh parmesan

Coarse ground black pepper and sea salt

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Snap the ends off the asparagus spears - this is very easy as they have a natural 'break line'. I don't usually peel the stems but if they are a little bit on the thick side you may want to do this. Just shave gently with a potato peeler, using long strokes. Carefully remove the delicate slices of prosciutto from the pack and wrap around the individual asparagus spears. Lay the prepared asparagus in a single layer in a large roasting tin or baking dish. Drizzle with a little rapeseed oil. Place in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the prosciutto is cooked and crispy. Serve the asparagus piled in a dish. Shave generous curls of fresh parmesan on the top and grind the black pepper and salt to taste. Make sure you supply plenty of napkins - this is finger food at its best. Enjoy!

HOT PAN FRIED ASPARAGUS WITH SMOKED SALMON

Serves 4

Ingredients

25g butter

1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil

450g bunch of fresh asparagus tips, washed

250g smoked salmon slices, cut into strips

150g block of pecorino or parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Method

Heat a heavy based frying pan.

Add the butter and oil.

Toss in the asparagus tips and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring to coat with the oil and butter. Season with black pepper and salt.

Drop in the strips of prepared smoked salmon and cook for a further 2 minutes until the smoked salmon changes colour.

Tip the asparagus and salmon into one large dish or into individual bowls.

Garnish with a few shaving of pecorino or parmesan cheese.


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