Salad of raw asparagus, celery, anchovy and mint dressing

Small dishes with big impact – these starters make the most of seasonal ingredients at their best and are easily made for casual barbecues or to open a summer dinner party

Although eating raw asparagus spears may sound a little strange, I definitely prefer to eat them this way. Sliced very, very finely they taste far more truly of themselves than they do when they are cooked.

Serves 4

For the dressing

1 tin anchovies (in olive oil)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of mint, leaves only
Juice of half a lemon
50ml/2floz extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
A couple of grindings of black pepper

For the salad

1 bunch of English asparagus
4 celery stalks (taken from the heart of the celery)

Start by making the dressing. You can make this in the blender if you have one – if not, use a pestle and mortar. Open the tin of anchovies and place them in the mortar or blender. Next add the garlic and mint leaves and pound until you have a rough paste. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and finally finish with the olive oil. Stir well to combine. Add one or two grindings of black pepper and then set aside.

Next, make the salad. Snap the ends off the asparagus and slice as finely as you can on the bias. Continue chopping in this way until you have finished the bunch. Rinse and pat dry gently. Next cut the ends of the celery sticks and slice each one, again as finely as you can on the bias so that you have long pale shards. Mix the asparagus and celery together and spoon over the dressing. Toss well and serve immediately.

Normally, I prefer cold food to be served at room temperature as I find the flavour is much truer when served this way. Oddly enough, though, this dish is at its most truly delicious when the celery and asparagus is slightly chilled. So, to serve, refrigerate and take it out just before eating.