Local and seasonal are serious buzz words in the food industry at the moment. As fuel prices rise, it makes sense to source locally and of course eat what is in season. For me, this is epitomized by asparagus; it’s got to be English, and despite its short season, producers race to achieve the earliest crop. As we drove through Somerset on the Easter weekend, my heart raced at the asparagus signs at the side of the road, there is no better way to eat it than straight from the field.
Back in Nailsworth on Tuesday, the highlight of my week was as I went to pay for my one humble packet of asparagus at the local greengrocers and I found seven for the same price in the bargain box. So this week we have mainly been eating asparagus. To prepare it I edge my knife along the bottom until you can cut off the woody end through a tender stem. This year I have resorted to boiling it, after years of grilling, I learnt from the chef at the bistro that a thirty second boil before grilling or barbecuing gives a much tastier stalk. I have also followed Elizabeth David’s recipe of boiling in bunches standing upright in the pan for less than ten minutes.
We have enjoyed asparagus with a dippy egg, asparagus in a salad and of course there has to be english asparagus in the Royal Wedding picnic. According to Elizabeth David there is no better way to serve it than with a hollandaise or mayonnaise. I have now perfected my hollandaise in any quantity. By whisking an egg yolk with some salt and a splash of white wine vinegar, over a bain marie I then whisk in knobs of unsalted butter, (about 2oz per egg yolk), and stir until thickened. As for mayonnaise, I only seem to be able to make this with a minimum of 3 egg yolks, again whisked with salt, I then add up to half a pint of olive oil drop by drop stirring by hand. When it’s like a thick jelly I add a little lemon juice then a tablespoon of boiling water, if it’s to last.
I urge you all to go out and find some local asparagus, and even if you just smear it in butter, never will English food taste any better.