There are, however, cheaper luxuries on offer now, such as the first of the UK's asparagus which growers are bringing on early in order to fight off competition from the cut-price imports. These early-season treats are a certain sign that spring is with us and that our predicted warm summer is not so far away.

Asparagus and wild salmon salad with a soft-boiled duck egg

Serves 4 as a main course

This is a great spring main-course salad, especially if you're lucky enough to have caught your first spring salmon and want to stretch it out so that it makes a few meals.

400g piece of wild salmon fillet, boned and skinned
A couple of good knobs of butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g asparagus, trimmed of woody stalks
A couple of handfuls of small salad or pennywort leaves
4 medium free-range hens' eggs

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp Dijon mustard
Juice of quarter of a lemon
4-5tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil

Heat the butter in a frying pan, season the salmon and fry on a medium heat for about 3-5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish. Meanwhile cook the asparagus for about 3-4 minutes in boiling salted water, depending on the thickness, until tender. Poach the eggs and drain on some kitchen paper. Whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing together and season.

To serve, arrange the pennywort or salad leaves on plates or bowls. Break the salmon into pieces on to and in among the leaves, cut the tips of the asparagus off to about 3cm and slice the rest on the angle and arrange on the leaves.

Place the egg in the middle, season the salad lightly and spoon over the dressing.

White asparagus with creamed morels

Serves 4

Just before our asparagus season starts, the French have a slight head-start with their very own white asparagus. As you may know, they are quite different to our home-grown variety in both looks and taste; their flavour is generally considered more delicate. They're not that easy to find, but you can buy them in Booths stall in London's Borough Market as well as in specialist greengrocers.

We're also coming into the morel season. You do occasionally find these delicious mushrooms in the UK, but the majority originate from other parts of Europe.

If you can't find fresh morels, then dried morels are an option, although they tend to take quite a bit of cooking once they have been re-hydrated.

1kg white asparagus, about 20 or so spears
The juice of half a lemon
2tsp caster sugar
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
250-300g fresh morels
100ml white wine
250ml double cream
1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the woody ends off the bottom of the asparagus. With a swivel-type peeler, peel from about 2cm from the tip of the asparagus all the way down to the ends. Bring some salted water to the boil in a pan wide enough to fit the asparagus. Add the lemon juice, sugar and asparagus, simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes until tender to the point of a knife, then remove from the heat and leave the asparagus in the cooking liquid.

Halve the morels and wash in cold water; drain and spin gently in a salad spinner. Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the shallots for a minute; add the morels and continue cooking on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, stirring every so often. Add the white wine, turn up the heat and cook until the wine has almost evaporated. Add the cream, bring to the boil, season and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add the parsley, simmer for another minute or so; re-season if necessary. Remove the asparagus from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon; drain on kitchen paper. Arrange the asparagus on warmed serving plates and spoon the morels and sauce over the asparagus.

Nettle and wild garlic soup with sea snails

Serves 4

There is an abundance of wild garlic and young nettles around now that you will be able to forage. You don't have to use sea snails or whelks – you could simply serve the soup as it is.

12 or so sea snails or whelks (cooked, removed from the shell and trimmed)
2 leeks, trimmed, cut into rough 1cm rounds and washed
A couple of good knobs of butter
1tbsp flour
1.5litres vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of wild garlic leaves, washed and chopped
A handful of young nettle tops, washed

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the leek for 2-3 minutes to soften, stirring every so often. Stir in the flour, then gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Add about two-thirds of the nettles and wild garlic and simmer for another few minutes. Blend in a liquidiser until smooth then return to the pan. Add the rest of the wild garlic and nettles and simmer for a few more minutes, seasoning again if necessary. Slice the whelks, add to the soup and serve.

Japanese asparagus omelette

Serves 4-6

If you're really keen on your gadgets, you might consider buying a special square omelette pan for this recipe, otherwise just trim the sides of a round omelette.

250g asparagus, trimmed of any woody stalks
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
A good knob of butter
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for about 2-3 minutes, depending on the thickness, until they still have a bit of bite to them, then refresh them in cold water for a couple of minutes. Mix the spring onion with the eggs and season well. Heat the butter in the pan, add the beaten egg and stir on a low heat for about a minute until the egg begins to set, then remove from the heat, leave for another minute to let the base of the omelette set, then lay about 3 spears of asparagus if they're thin (one if they're thick), at the end nearest to you and roll the omelette up as tightly as possible and turn out on to a board. Leave to cool a little and cut into 2cm thick slices and arrange on a serving dish.

Enjoy a three-course lunch cooked by Mark Hix with the Australian chef and restaurateur Bill Granger at Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis on 22 April. To book a place (£37.50), please call Jo Verberne on 01206 756388

Comments