Mark Hix recipes: Our chef celebrates British asparagus season
The first spears of British asparagus have started to reach the shops – and our man in the kitchen couldn’t be happier
I adore asparagus, so I always try and get it the moment it first becomes available. It doesn't really have an official season, as such, but over the past few years changing weather patterns have meant it is ready to be harvested in early March. So that is when my suppliers, the Chinn family from the Wye Valley, usually send mine.
This year, we got a one-box-only delivery of delicious green spears in February, which was a little surprising. Of course, they may have been grown under polythene to encourage them to come up quickly. But we shouldn't complain too much about that, as our asparagus growers face stiff competition from Peru and other countries which have longer seasons and import to British supermarkets most of the year round. Although the foreign variety may be a little cheaper, British asparagus is unbeaten when it comes to flavour, so it is always best to buy that if you can.
Fried egg, chorizo and asparagus
This is a lovely brunch or breakfast dish. Add a piece of toast or fried bread if you want to make it more substantial. Alternatively, you can mix things up by using a duck egg.
Take care when choosing your chorizo. Nowadays, you can get some particularly fine British versions. The Bath Pig and Trealy Farm both produce chorizo that is as good as some of the best Spanish examples.
4 free-range hen or duck eggs
Rapeseed or olive oil for frying
12 mini cooking chorizo
8 or 12 medium-sized stems of asparagus
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Cook the chorizo under a medium-heat grill for 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally so it colours evenly. While it is cooking, put the asparagus spears in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes, or until they are just tender, then drain in a colander.
Gently fry the eggs in the oil, seasoning them lightly as they cook. Transfer to warmed serving plates, cut the asparagus into 2 or 3 pieces, and scatter around the eggs with the mini cooked chorizo.
Over the past few years changing weather patterns have meant asparagus is ready to be harvested in early March (Jason Lowe)
Thai asparagus soup
This soup is a great way to use up any excess asparagus you might have hanging around.
If you would like to give it even more of an Asian flavour, add black fungus or shiitake mushrooms.
Mark's Thai asparagus soup (Jason Lowe)
250g asparagus with the woody ends trimmed (keep the offcuts for the broth)
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small leek, washed and roughly chopped
1 stick of lemon grass, roughly chopped
2 lime leaves
A small piece (about 20g) of root ginger or galangal
3 cloves of garlic
Stalks from Thai basil and coriander
1.5ltrs of vegetable stock
2tbsp Thai fish sauce
For the garnish
1 stick of lemon grass, outer leaves trimmed off, and finely chopped
4 lime leaves
A small piece of root ginger, peeled and shredded
1 mild red chilli, seeded and sliced
2 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the angle
A few sprigs of Thai basil
A few sprigs of coriander
60g Oriental mushrooms – enoki or hon-shimeji
Put the woody ends of the asparagus in a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Bring to the boil and simmer gently, skimming regularly, for 1 hour. Strain the soup through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean pan and season with salt and pepper.
Now, take the asparagus and slice thinly on the angle. Add this and the other ingredients for the garnish to the pan. Simmer for a minute, then serve.
Asparagus with shellfish
You can use whatever shellfish you can get your hands on for this.
16 medium asparagus spears with the woody ends removed
16-20 medium prawns, cooked and peeled
200-250g freshly-cooked cockles or clams, removed from the shell
200-250g freshly-cooked mussels, removed from the shell
4-5tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
The juice of 1 lemon
½tbsp chopped fennel or dill
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Keep it simple: Asparagus with shellfish (Jason Lowe)
Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4-5 minutes, then drain. Mix the shellfish with the oil, lemon and dill or fennel, then season to taste. Arrange the asparagus on serving plates and top with the shellfish.
Salmon cooked in rapeseed oil with asparagus and wild garlic
Cooking fish in oil at a low temperature is rather like poaching it in a court bouillon, except you get a bit more flavour into the fish this way. Plus, the oil that you have used can be made into a simple dressing, kept in the fridge for use next time, or added to egg yolks to make a hollandaise or mayonnaise.
4 portions of salmon weighing about 150-160g each, boned and skinned
250-300ml rapeseed oil
1tsp fennel seeds
A couple of sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
1tsp flaky sea salt
8 or so spears of asparagus, with the woody ends removed
A handful of wild garlic leaves, washed
Salmon with asparagus and wild garlic (Jason Lowe)
Put the rapeseed oil into a saucepan which is large enough to hold all the salmon fillets. Add the fennel seeds, thyme, peppercorns and salt. Put the pan on a low heat for 4-5 minutes.
Now add the salmon fillets and cover with a lid and remove from the heat. Cook the asparagus separately in boiling, salted water for 4-5 minutes, or until tender, then drain in a colander. Cut the asparagus into 3 pieces on the angle and place in a saucepan with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooking oil and the wild garlic leaves. Season and heat for a minute, stirring until the wild garlic leaves are just starting to wilt.
To serve, transfer to warm serving plates.
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