We’ve waited for nine months, but asparagus season is now finally upon us. Chefs and home cooks are rejoicing. Of course, you can get your hands on asparagus all year round at the supermarket, shipped in from afar and not tasting quite like itself, but here in the U.K it’s from February to June, and particularly late March and April, when they’re at their peak. As such, you’ll have seen your Instagram feed alive with cheffy shots of this much loved veg, and your bathroom replete with the curious aroma it leaves lingering, too. They won’t be at their best for long, so let’s get cooking. Here are 5 IDEAL tips for cooking with asparagus.
Since asparagus is only around for a very short while, and takes two years of careful cultivation to grow, let’s show it some respect. As such, we’d recommend ignoring the conventional wisdom that ‘snapping’ the stalk will somehow – automatically and every time – indicate the correct place where woody becomes palatable. It wastes a lot of the good stuff, the stuff we’ve waited almost a year to eat. So, simply cut an inch or so from the bottom of the stalk and then gently peel the lower end until you have dispensed with the stringy parts and reached the tender interior. Don’t toss the ends though, make a soup or save them for a vegetable stock.
BLANCH AND REFRESH
We like to retain the fresh snap present in asparagus’ raw form, as well as its splendid green colour, so a quick blanch of a minute or two in a rolling boil of salted water should do the trick. If you’re not serving it immediately, then you should refresh the asparagus in iced water to stop it cooking any longer and discolouring. You can warm it back through later in a simple emulsion of warm water and butter.
GRIDDLE OR ROAST
A quick griddle to add a smoky note and pleasing char marks works wonders with the king of vegetables. To ensure an even, thorough cook, it’s best to blanch, as above, before griddling. But if you don’t have the time or energy to do so, you could simply grill from their raw state. Just be aware that although the exterior will look cooked, the middle might not be.
Asparagus is also great in its raw form. To make it palatable it needs to be cut extremely thinly if you’re not going let it see any heat. This could be done with a sharp knife across the stem, giving you small rondelles which would be great added to a salad, but the preferred way is lengthways, using a peeler or mandolin to get long, wispy strands. Some gently rest their spear over a glass bowl to make the peeling easier. Tossing these ribbons with some olive oil, lemon and salt forms the basis of a great side salad.
You’ve waited all year for this moment, and put all this effort into treating your asparagus right, now it would be folly to simply chuck it on the side of a roast dinner in amongst the carrots and parsnips.
Pair thoughtfully to fully appreciate its majesty. Parmesan and poached eggs are a wonderful accompaniment, as is anything fishy, particularly if smoked.