Despite all the spring rain, this is one of my favourite times of the year. The weather (generally) gets warmer, and the produce available shows us that summer is definitely on its way. Nothing means spring for me more than new-season asparagus, one of my favourite vegetables.
I eat it several times a week throughout its short season, and every year I try to think up new ways to cook it. I used to be obsessed with roasting it in olive oil and salt and pepper until it was crisp, but this year I've been simply cutting it into chunks and blanching it.
One of these salads is a classic I often make, but the basil and balsamic one is a new combo. And on cool spring nights there's nothing as comforting as a creamy pasta - in this dish it's as if bacon and asparagus were made for each other.
Broccoli and asparagus salad with herbs and feta
This is a classic spring salad, and perfect for taking to a barbecue or pot-luck. At home, try serving it alongside pan-fried fresh fish or steak. You could also add a cup of your favourite grain - quinoa, freekeh, pearl barley or brown rice, to make it more substantial.
1 bunch asparagus
1 small head of broccoli
Salt and pepper
2 tsp chilli flakes
¼ cup sliced almonds
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
Small bunch each basil, Italian parsley, mint, roughly chopped (omit any you don't like)
Cut the broccoli into florets, and cut the stalk into chunks (it's good to eat too). Lay on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle over the chilli flakes, then season with salt and pepper. Roast at 200C for 15 minutes.
Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut each spear into pieces about 5cm in length. Blanch in boiling water for one minute, before running under cold water. Set aside.
Add asparagus and broccoli to a large bowl, then add feta, almonds, seeds, herbs, and drizzle over dressing. Toss gently to combine, then serve.
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Juice of half a lemon
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust as necessary.
Asparagus and bacon spaghetti
About 120g spaghetti (enough for 2)
1 Tbsp neutral cooking oil
4 rashers bacon
1 small red onion
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 bunch asparagus, cut into chunks
Flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil to medium-high heat and add the bacon.
Fry for a few minutes, stirring constantly until it starts to crisp, then add the onion. Continue stirring constantly as the onion cooks, being careful not to let it burn.
Add about of the cream and increase the heat. Add the garlic, and continue stirring - the cream will reduce and thicken.
Add the raw asparagus pieces. Add the rest of the cream and season well. Keep cooking until the sauce has thickened (about 4-5 minutes), then reduce heat slightly and add the spaghetti.
Mix well and then add parmesan and lemon zest and juice. Continue to mix through before removing from the heat. Serve immediately.
Garnish with additional parmesan, salt and pepper, and flat leaf parsley.
Asparagus with balsamic and basil
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off
½ large red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup walnut pieces, dry-toasted
½ cup basil leaves, finely chopped
3 Tbsp grated parmesan
2 Tbsp olive oil
Place the red onion slices in a small dish and cover with the balsamic. Set aside for 5 minutes.
Cut the asparagus into 5cm lengths. Blanch in boiling water for 1 minute, then run under cold water (alternatively, microwave the pieces in a bowl of cold water for 2 minutes, then drain). It will retain its crunch.
Place the asparagus in a bowl, and add the vinegar and the onions. Add walnuts, basil and parmesan, then drizzle over the olive oil.
Gently toss to combine and serve.