Spring is here, and very shortly we’ll see the start of the asparagus season in the UK. Of course, asparagus is commonplace these days at the supermarket; but it is always worth hunting out those fresh green spears from a local food market or even fresh from the field if you get the opportunity.
Once they’re in-hand, however, the question then turns to how best to eat them? Well, read on for everything you’ll ever need to know about how to cook asparagus…
When cooking asparagus, you can tie them into little bundles, which makes them easier to remove from the water. Drop these bundles or individual spears into some boiling water, cover and cook for three to five minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Take them out, drain and plunge into some ice-cold water; or simply serve straight away.
Jamie’s tender asparagus is a thing of joy. This super elegant starter with a gorgeous green dressing, soft boiled eggs and crispy homemade bacon croutons is so delicious and easy to make. It pairs perfectly with a glass of cold sparkling cider.
To steam, place the spears in a steaming basket with a little water underneath. Cover and cook for three minutes.
Asparagus loves to be griddled in a pan – simply drizzle with a little olive oil and turn occasionally, or try Jamie’s recipe for griddled asparagus with olive oil, lemon and Parmesan.
A simple homemade mushroom mayonnaise, shavings of Cheddar and a drizzle of rich truffle oil make for a divine combo. Super sophisticated and on the table in 15 minutes — winner!
If you’ve got a barbecue going, lightly coat the spears in oil and cook on a medium heat, turning often so that the spears don’t burn.
Asparagus develops a lovely, rich flavour when roasted. Simply preheat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7, line a tray with foil or baking paper, lay the asparagus spears onto the tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can also try adding a couple of fresh cloves of garlic and a little grating of lemon zest. Roast for ten minutes.
You can stir the roasted asparagus through a risotto, or a creamy pasta dish. The simple, clean flavours in this tasty risotto are unbeatable. This fuss-free meal is easy to get creative with: try adding a little picked crab, lobster or peeled prawns, for a fancy touch.
If you’re serving the roasted asparagus on its own, you can stay simple but go big on flavour with Jamie’s pancetta, anchovy and cherry tomato version.
Asparagus is often used in Asian cooking, either in salads or in stir-fries. It needs only a minute or so in a hot wok, so always remember to add it in towards the end of cooking the rest of your dish. A splash of soy and a sprinkle of sesame seeds work well.
You can, in fact, eat asparagus raw, too – it’s great with feta cheese and radishes. Or add a spear or two to a fresh green smoothie. This raw spring salad makes the most of raw asparagus, radishes, baby courgettes and fragrant fresh herbs. It makes a lovely speedy little side or starter.
The best accompaniments for asparagus are olive oil or a little butter – in both cases, season with a little sea salt and fresh black pepper, too. As mentioned, freshly-shaved Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese are great partners, as are a little goat’s cheese, or strong Cheddar. This British asparagus Westcombe cheddar tart makes the perfect centrepiece for a spring picnic or lunch. You can also make a simple Polish recipe at home called Asparagus á la Polonaise by cooking the asparagus in water seasoned with sugar and salt, and then topping with butter, slightly browned in a pan mixed with fresh breadcrumbs.
Asparagus and eggs are a timeless spring combination, too. Try dipping fresh spears into a softly boiled egg, or make asparagus soup and top it with a poached egg and a drizzle of olive oil — silky smooth and so simple, it’s a delight hot or cold.
Vibrant asparagus, creamy ricotta and chicken are glorious combined in this quick and easy savoury tart. Served with a crisp salad, it’s the perfect summer lunch or dinner.
This gorgeous combo of egg and asparagus is so elegant, drizzled with a simple French dressing — happy days!
It would be a crime not to mention hollandaise – a classic French sauce made of melted butter, fresh egg yolks, lemon juice and a little mustard or a pinch of cayenne – paired with asparagus, it’s simply heavenly.
How to prepare asparagus
Notes on asparagus
Thin spears of asparagus tend to be younger and fresher in flavour; while thicker spears will have been left to grow for longer and have a more pronounced flavour.
Try to use your asparagus as soon as possible, but if you don’t use it straight away, a good tip is to store it standing up in a jug of water in the fridge.
To learn all about how to store asparagus, when it’s in season and more, head to Vegepedia.