Friday, May 16, 2008

In the Bag: Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?

I hope everyone enjoyed the Summer. You were away last week? Oh. What a shame! You missed it.

I knew I shouldn't have dusted off the barbecue. No sooner had I donned my summer dress and unearthed the flip-flops than the sun disappears behind a dull and damp-looking cloud. Today, I even considered popping the heating back on for a moment but I thought better of it and just donned another layer.

I'm cheering myself up with the very best of British Spring produce: asparagus, Jersey Royals, watercress, peas and salad leaves fresh from the garden. Deliciously fresh flavours to brighten up the dullest of days.

Asparagus is perhaps the vegetable I look forward to most. It has such a short season and tastes so disappointingly bland when imported from warmer climes at other times of the year. It really is a treat worth waiting for and savouring. I find that many people are quite precious and particular about the way they like to prepare these flavoursome green spears. Perhaps because the season is so short, they want every asparagus moment to be a perfect one.

Essentially, I like mine pretty plain. Steamed (or occasionally roasted) and served with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. Please note that when I say melted butter, I do not mean a slice of butter popped atop the warm asparagus. Oh no. I mean a blob of butter that has been purposefully melted in a pan and is then served from a warmed jug. The plate must then be propped up with a fork, or knife so that it is on a tilt and all the butter runs to one end. The asparagus can then (and only then) be savoured, dipped in that lovely butter... Did I mention that I am particular about how I like my asparagus?

Occasionally I divert from this course of action, substituting butter for really good extra virgin olive oil and some shavings of Parmesan. If I'm offered it, I won't say no to a splodge of hollandaise sauce either. It would be churlish to refuse, after all.

How do you like to eat yours?

When Scott from
Real Epicurean announced the ingredients for this month's 'In the Bag...' event, I was ahead of the game! Just that day, I had enjoyed a divine lunch of asparagus with quail's eggs and Parmesan (see above photo). As the ingredients were asparagus, Parmesan and eggs, I thought I had the event 'in the bag' so to speak (-sorry, couldn't help myself).

After a bit more thought though, I decided that I should be a little more imaginative. I decided to incorporate asparagus into one of my favourite speedy lunchtime dishes: frittata. With Jersey Royals, spring onions, asparagus and peas, this certainly put a 'spring' in my step. (Don't know what's with the puns today. I can only apologise).

Springtime Frittata
Serves 2 hungry people


4 large free-range eggs (preferably organic)
bunch of asparagus (around 10 stems)
5 spring onions
5 baby Jersey Royal potatoes (or other potatoes)
ramekin full of peas (fresh or frozen)
Small handful of fresh herbs (I used parsley and chives)

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Drizzle olive oil into a roasting tin and pop in oven to heat up. Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until just soft (you need to slice them up so don't let them get too soft).

2. Bend asparagus stems until they snap so that you are left with the tender part and not the woody stem. Pop them into the oven to roast. This could take from 5-15 minutes, depending on whether you have the fat stuff or the thin stuff. I had the medium stuff and it took about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, chop the spring onions and herbs. Heat some olive oil in a small non-stick pan and add the onions. Soften on a gentle heat.

4. Once the potatoes are ready, drain them and then slice roughly. Add to pan with onions and throw over the peas. Up the heat a touch.

5. Remove asparagus from oven. Take three stems and chop them into small disks - add them to the pan. Sit the other spears on top in a pretty pattern, with the tips meeting in the middle.

6. Pre-heat the grill to high. Crack the eggs and beat slightly with a fork. Add the chopped herbs and salt and pepper. Pour eggs over the ingredients in the pan and cook gently until most of the egg is set. At this point, remove from heat and grate Parmesan all over the top.

7. Pop the pan under the grill to cook the top and brown the cheese. Keep an eye on it - I left mine a touch too long.

8. Cut into slices and enjoy with some salad on the side, perhaps.

Notes: Other things that might be fun to add are courgettes, broad beans and (unless, like me you think it is the devils' work) mint.

Do take a look at Scott's blog for the details of the 'In the Bay' food blogging event and have a think about entering your own favourite asparagus dish!


Sylvie said...

Antonio, both meals would make me a very happy eater! I adore asparagus, green and white, cooked any way (well, all the ways I've ever tried so far).

Trekkie said...

That looks truly glorious. I'm ashamed to admit that I've never tried cooking it myself.

Peter M said...

I'll have a big slab of the frittata please and thank you very much!

Lucy said...

Oh, yes, those Jersey Royals are a treat worth waiting for. You're making me seasonally jealous, I can tell you.

Asparagus - love it with a large puddle of hollandaise sauce, mayo mixed wih lemon zest or, like you, a lovingly melted sauce of plain butter.

And yes, mint IS the devil's work. Good in tea, but naught else...

Alfie said...

I love your frittata - the epitomy of Spring! Shame about the sunshine though - it's a tricky little devil

Julia said...

That looks great and I love how you've used the asparagus whole.

I bought some quails eggs the other day for the first time and they're sitting in my fridge ready to be used. They're so cute.

Antonia said...

Sylvie - I like white asparagus too, but green is my favourite! Thank you for stopping by.

Lynn - Ooh - you should def give it a go. Very easy to cook - steam, boil, roast or griddle. Just take care not to overcook.

Peter - One slice coming your way!!

Lucy - glad to find a fellow mint-hater! I can't even stand it it tea.

Alfie - lovely bright green colours always make me think of Spring. Let's keep our fingers crossed for some better weather!

Julia - hope you enjoy those quails eggs. I think they are such a treat myself. Especially with celery salt.

LisaRene said...

I too prefer my asparagus fairly simple. My preparation of choice is to rub the asparagus with a bit of olive oil and sea salt then grill or roast them briefly so they remain crisp tender. I serve them with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a sprinkling of blue cheese or fresh Parmesan shavings.

Anonymous said...

This sounds really good Antonia, I've just started eating more eggs so I think this would be a great way to get more used to them.

Fantastic to combine asparagus and Jersey Royals in the same dish too!

Rosie said...

Oh my Antonia such beautiful dishes! I agree about the sun too blink and its gone.

Rosie x

David Hall said...

Hi Antonia

As asparagus is my fave vegetable (probably!), I like mine just as it is, lightly steamed with butter, nothing more!


aforkfulofspaghetti said...

That's EXACTLY (EGGSactly?) how I like my asparagus. Well, there are other ways, too. But frittata is a fave - esp combined with courgette and broad beans, peas, and basil and mint... Yum!

Joy said...

Firstly, thank you so much for the award my dear. It's very much appreciated.

Secondly, I have just pedaled home furiously from work in time for the Apprentice and my dinner of toasted rye bread, scrambled eggs and fresh poached asparagus. I finished it with a drizzle of olive oil, some sea salt and parmesan. Perfect!