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How to cook with seasonal asparagus this April

These little spears are just poking their heads through the soil and chefs consider the British harvest to be the best is the world, so make the most of it with these delicious dishes

Asparagus risotto with wild garlic pesto

Risotto makes a lovely light supper, and shows off the asparagus’s delicate flavour. You could use a shop-bought pesto if you want to save on time or can’t get hold of wild garlic.

Serves 4

200g asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off, cut into 3cm lengths
80g butter
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
400g risotto rice
125ml white wine
1.2 litres hot vegetable stock
60g spinach leaves, finely shredded
80g Parmesan, grated, plus shavings to garnish
salt and pepper
20g pea shoots, to garnish

For the wild garlic pesto (or use 150g regular pesto,shop-bought or homemade)
130g wild garlic leaves
1 garlic clove, sliced
130ml olive oil
3 tbsp dry-roasted pumpkin seeds
25g Parmesan, grated

First make the pesto: mix half the wild garlic leaves with the garlic clove and olive oil and leave to stand for 10 minutes, then add to a food processor or blender and blitz to a smooth paste. Add the remaining leaves with the pumpkin seeds and Parmesan and pulse for a few seconds until you have a coarse pesto. Taste and season as necessary.

Now make the risotto. Melt half the butter and the olive oil in a widebased pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over a low-medium heat until softened but not coloured. Add the rice and cook slowly, stirring for 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine and reduce until the liquid has evaporated. Gradually add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly. When most of the stock is absorbed, add the asparagus and spinach with the remaining butter and grated Parmesan. Stir in the wild garlic pesto and season to taste.

Serve, garnished with pea shoots, Parmesan shavings and a drizzle of olive oil.

Bring a wide pan of water to the boil, add the asparagus and simmer for about 5 minutes, then drain and plunge quickly into iced water and drain again well. Leave to cool.

'Nurture: Notes and Recipes from Daylesford Farm' by Carole Bamford, published by Square Peg, £35

Griddled organic asparagus, shallot and wild garlic salad

Time: 25 mins

Serves 2

A bunch of radishes
1 lemon
Sea salt
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
50g breadcrumbs
4 shallots
200g asparagus
A handful of wild garlich the golden breadcrumbs

Slice the leaves off the radishes, pop the leaves in a colander and gently rinse under cold water. Set aside. Rinse the radishes. Thinly slice the radishes and slide them into a small bowl. Squeeze over the juice from half the lemon, add a pinch of salt and toss together. Set the radishes to one side to lightly pickle.

Peel and finely chop or grate the garlic. Slide it into a large bowl. Spoon in 1 tbsp of the mustard and squeeze in the juice from the remaining lemon half. Stir with a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tbsp oil till a dressing is formed. Set aside.

Pour 1 tbsp oil into a large pan and warm over a medium-high heat. Tip in the breadcrumbs with a little salt and pepper. Fry for 3-4 mins, stirring frequently, till the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Tip into a bowl and give the pan a quick wipe clean.

Peel the shallots and slice them. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus (they'll break at the right point when you bend them). Return the clean frying pan to a medium-high heat and warm for 2 mins. Pour in 1 tbsp oil and add the asparagus and shallots. Fry for 5-6 mins, stirring often, till the asparagus is tender and the shallots are golden.

Tip the cooked asparagus and shallots into the bowl with the salad dressing. Add the radish leaves, wild garlic leaves and the pickled radishes . Toss to combine. Divide the salad between two warm plates and sprinkle with the golden breadcrumbs.

Recipe from abeland cole.co.uk

Roasted asparagus with spring onions and goat’s cheese

Serves 2

We serve this dish as a starter in the Field Kitchen. It is simplicity itself and makes a perfect lunch with a few slices of chewy, crusty bread and butter. We use a goat’s cheddar as it lends itself well to grating, crumbling or shaving, but a younger, fresher goat’s cheese will still hit the mark.

1 bunch of asparagus
olive oil
4–6 spring onions, depending on size
50g goat’s cheddar
½ lemon
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 210°C/Gas 7. Snap the tough lower stalks from the asparagus then split any larger stems in half lengthways so that they are all roughly the same size. Toss the asparagus in a baking dish in just enough oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 8–12 minutes (depending on thickness) until just tender. Trim the spring onions; nip off the root, cut off the darker ends and peel away the first layer of skin. Slice very finely at an angle. Break up the slices with your fingertips. As soon as you take the asparagus out of the oven, squeeze the lemon juice over it and toss the spring onions through. Pile on to a plate and crumble, grate or shave the cheese on top.

Variations:

- New season bunched onions can be used instead of the thinner spring onions; thinly slice the bulbous base of the onion and divide up the rings.
- Use a soft, fresh crumbly sheep’s cheese, such as Sussex Slipcote, or a Feta-style cheese or some shavings of pecorino.

Recipe from riverford.co.uk/recipes

Asparagus tempura, goats’ cheese sabayon

For the Tempura

8 medium stems of asparagus
200g flour
200g corn flour
30ml cold sparkling water
Salt

Make a tempura batter by combining the flour, cornflour, water and salt and keep refrigerated.

Boil the asparagus for 1 minute in salted water, refresh in iced water. Dry on kitchen paper.

Flour the asparagus lightly and coat in tempura batter. Deep fry at 180 degrees Celsius until batter is crisp.

For the sabayon

250ml White wine
150ml White wine vinegar
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig tarragon
1 banana shallot, sliced
1 bay leaf
10 white peppercorns
3 egg yolks
4 dessertspoons of melted clarified butter
170g soft goats’ cheese

Make a reduction by using the white wine and vinegar, thyme, tarragon, bay leaf, pepper and shallot. Boil for 8 minutes leave to cool. Whisk 3 egg yolks, with 2 tablespoons of the reduction and two tablespoons of water over a pan of simmering water until thick and foamy.

Incorporate clarified butter slowly; add a spoon of warm water if it gets too thick. Crumble in goat’s cheese to finish sabayon, whisk until smooth. Pass through cheese cloth. To serve, lay the asparagus spears on a plate and spoon over the warm sabayon.

Tony Fleming, Executive Chef at The Baptist Grill at L’oscar hotel in Holborn

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