Asparagus season is not so good in my locality this year: blame late spring? cold spell? too dry? too wet? Fickle beasts are asparagus – or is it asparagi? Even the word is a puzzle. I was fascinated to see them growing last year in France, miniature emerald forests – you can’t ever see them in the UK because the farmers keep the locations secret squirrel, it’s such a precious crop. And there’s another weird thing about the vegetable: it’s really a flower. And the weirdest of all: it likes the British climate.
Contrary to what you’d think, young stalks are fat and thick; they get thin and reedy as the season comes to an end. Unfortunately this year there are thin shoots already in the bunches – so let’s hurry to get our fix.
Raw asparagus salad is certainly the best way to appreciate them, but make sure the stalks are firm which means freshly picked. They should be eaten as fresh as possible, otherwise keep them in water, like a bunch of flowers, or at least wrapped in damp paper towels. They are surprisingly nice spicy and stir-fried, or mixed into a salad with new potatoes and pancetta. Tip: don’t bin the woody ends; collect them for the stock for asparagus risotto.
Spring lamb is in, for chump chops with spring herby topping or cutlets with Parmesan crust. Marinated fennel salad might go well with either. If you’re meatless, try cauliflower parmigiana; if you’re flexi or pesca, you could make the smoked fish salad with massively underrated turnips.
I’m making the lime yoghurt and pistachio cake this weekend and you could too; it’s gorgeous, even if you can’t get hold of rose water to flavour the drizzling syrup. Or, if you can find a tin of Carnation milk at the back of the cupboard, there's another lime bake: lime and condensed milk cake. But I won’t blame you if you choose a bowl of strawberries with cream for dessert!
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