To be honest, at this time of year I could happily sustain on three kinds of produce: asparagus, new potatoes and strawberries.
Admittedly, I also need some salt and butter for the first two, but other than that I’d be happy to eat strawberries for breakfast, buttered asparagus for lunch and a repeat for dinner alongside boiled new spuds. I’d wager the season would end sooner than I’d get tired of the menu.
And even if you are not quite as keen on the three as I am, there are so many wonderful dishes you can create with them that you’re not going to get bored quickly.
First, asparagus and some useful facts. Surprisingly, the fattest spears come first, at the beginning of the season. Once the thin and spindly ones appear, you might as well wave goodbye to that wonderful albeit short time of annual feast. I bet most people think it’s the other way round, especially what with supermarkets selling those pointless asparagus ‘tips’. Why would you want them? They are the scrags of the season with not much more flavour than the awful imports from South America in the middle of the winter.
Asparagus also have the unique, exciting feature connected to the smell (wink, wink). I love it, but some people can’t stand the post-asparagus meal bathroom aroma; yet others are completely unaffected. It all adds to the asparagus mystique and appeal.
There is also the dilemma of snapping the endings vs cutting them off with a knife and perhaps peeling. I stand firmly on the side of snapping: woody ends do spoil the eating experience. If you dread the waste, save the ends for asparagus risotto.
Just like asparagus, new potatoes are also best cooked simply. But do try to buy them unwashed – those sterile spuds packed into plastic, whether Jersey Royal or Cornish New, are not as strong on flavour, even though I do agree that soil does not necessarily carry it. Boil them and lightly crush, then save some to sauté them with spinach on the following day.
And then strawberries. My favourite no-recipe for them is to sprinkle a little sugar onto halves or quarters, add a drop of vanilla extract and leave them for half an hour to macerate. In the meantime lightly whip some cream or even scoop a few spoonfuls of crème fraiche or cream cheese to fold the berries into and the best dessert in the world is yours.
My Athens mess will be a little more involved, with sweet filo crumbs instead of meringue. Don’t forget it’s the Pimm’s season starting soon too, or you could try strawberry fizz as well/instead one balmy weekend evening.
If you’d rather make a cake, how about a strawberry and cream Victoria sponge, or an easy strawberry crumble cake? And last not least, strawberries for breakfast: fresh or lightly roasted into a compote, sitting in a summer fruit and oat breakfast bowl. Simply gorgeous.
Three ingredients, and so many options! Hope you’ll make the most of the season this year. Happy cooking!