Asparagus is springing up in the shops, heralding warmer sunnier days ahead.
As soon as I arrived at the cafe with the first splendid bunches of asparagus, the staff became excited, even more so when they hit the olive oil and started sizzling and charring on the grill. One of the quintessential summer ingredients, asparagus tastes and smells of barbecues and long, warm evenings. It's a far cry from the soggy tinned variety used in asparagus rolls. although I admit, I secretly have a bit of a thing for those, you'll know where to find me at a "do" in a small town country hall.
Everyone has a favourite way to eat asparagus - baked in a quiche, dipped into runny egg yolk or hollandaise, blanched with lemon or wrapped in white bread and toasted.
Those spears are delicious and can be used in many ways and paired with many flavours.
They are good with cheeses, herbs, eggs, cream and salmon - the earthy green flavour compliments the rich quality of the ingredients. As long as the asparagus is not overcooked, its al dente texture is a perfect foil to fat.
The first recipe today is for a quiche and though quiches have been unfairly maligned, possibly because there are so many bad examples, a well made quiche, properly baked using good pastry, is a fine thing indeed, especially with fresh chervil and pecorino cheese.
Leave it to cool a little before serving with salad greens dressed with a garlic and mustard vinaigrette - the perfect lunch or summer supper.
Crumbing asparagus is a nice alternative to the more usual methods of preparation. The asparagus remains tender inside while the crumbs create a crunchy golden outer. I used panko crumbs for a crunchier result but you could easily use your own, blitzed in the food processor for a moment or two. Cooked this way, the asparagus is perfect for dipping into a salsa and serving with drinks.
Serve it straight away while nice and hot.
Baking salmon takes so little effort and you can drizzle on whatever flavours you like - throw it into a hot oven and approximately 10 minutes later you have gorgeously rich salmon ready to pair with asparagus and salad ingredients. I have used mirin and oyster sauce today because I love the flavours with the asparagus and the salmon.
Green asparagus is common but the white and purple varieties not so much, unfortunately. Look out for them though because they are well worth trying. White asparagus is much sweeter and needs peeling before cooking; purple can be prepared in the same way as the green.By Amanda Laird Email Amanda