We are delighted to welcome back Celia Brooks to our blog to share her intimate knowledge of seasonal vegetables. She will ensure you can share something extra special for your spring al fresco dining, for summer party guests or as a wonderful picnic partner - food to truly savour.
But act quickly, as asparagus, this treasured British vegetable isn’t around for long.
Over to Celia to tell us more…
Asparagus - Spears of flavour
Where can you get the most delicious asparagus on the planet? Right here in Britain, that’s where. This is a well-known fact amongst chefs, food writers and asparagus connoisseurs.
England, specifically, has the perfect asparagus growing conditions, but the season is achingly short - traditionally it starts on St. George’s Day (April 23) and finishes on Midsummer’s Day (June 21).
It’s imperative that farmers stop the harvest at the end of June, even though the plants will keep forcing out their juicy spears all summer. As the spears are cut, it signals the plant to keep producing more shoots. However, the cutting needs to stop so the plants can take a break and be left to bloom into tall grassy fronds through the summer and autumn. This allows the plants to replenish their resources for next year’s season.
If you’ve ever grown asparagus, you’ll know how astonishingly fast it grows in cutting season - the spears reach skyward at an incredible speed of up to 10cm a day! That takes a lot of energy, and the plants need the time from July through March to build up their strength again.
So, grab English asparagus while you can, and hurry up and eat it - asparagus tastes sweeter when eaten as close to harvest time as possible. That’s another reason why English asparagus tastes so amazing - it hasn’t traveled very far from farm to fork!
How to cook asparagus
Asparagus is best enjoyed without being adulterated.
Simply steamed and slathered with butter is my favourite treatment. It certainly doesn’t mind being covered in a blanket of velvety Hollandaise sauce either, and tastes wonderful in an omelette.
In fact, eggs and asparagus are great chums, and I’ve got a recipe below that marries the two in a salad to great effect. The umami-rich sesame balsamic dressing is perfect for glorifying asparagus without interfering with its delicate flavour, and it also marries beautifully with eggs that have been boiled just until the yolks are fudgy. It’s a filling, fuss-free salad for summer.
Make sure your eggs are British too, and always spring for organic or free-range ones, especially heritage breeds. They taste richer and have scrumptious golden yolks, plus the hens have a happy lifestyle with space to roam as nature intended.
Perfect picnic partners – British asparagus and New Zealand's Sauvignon Blanc
Now that warmer weather is on the horizon, al fresco dining and picnics are back on the agenda, woohoo!
The salad recipe below is perfect for packing up for a picnic. Complete your spread with crusty bread and a soft goat’s cheese, or a ripe brie or Camembert, or even better, a British soft cheese, such as a Somerset Brie. Don’t forget the English strawberries and cream!
And what to drink with this spread of Blighty brilliance? A crisp white wine with floral notes would be the ideal match. And nobody does that better than the Kiwis, with their world-class New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Emerging as one of the go-to spots for flavoursome white wine, this is because of its location in the southern hemisphere. New Zealand experiences plenty of UV light, which combines with the beautifully fresh and unpolluted air to provide the perfect growing conditions for Sauvignon Blanc grapes! For this reason, New Zealand’s white wine is all the better for enjoying alongside a hearty serving of fresh British asparagus… yes please!
At hampers.com, you'll find the perfect picnic wine hamper with two expertly selected bottles of Sauvignon Blanc in a gorgeous wicker chiller.
Here comes the sun!
Roasted asparagus & egg salad recipe
From “SuperVeg: The Joy & Power of the 25 Healthiest Vegetables on the Planet”, by Celia Brooks, published by Murdoch Books
Serves 2 - 4 / Prep 15 mins / Cook 15 mins
4 large eggs
400g green asparagus spears, lower parts of stems trimmed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed rapeseed oil
sea salt 100g baby salad leaves (rocket, baby chard, watercress, pea shoots)
For the sesame balsamic dressing:
20g sesame seeds, toasted (2 tablespoons)
30ml best balsamic vinegar
30ml dark soy sauce or tamari
50ml extra virgin olive oil or cold-pressed rapeseed oil
Large baking sheet
Non-stick foil or baking paper
1) Heat the oven to 220C. Line the baking sheet.
2) Place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-6 minutes. Drain and rinse the eggs under cold water until completely cool, then peel and cut into quarters. (This cooking technique should result in yolks that are slightly undercooked and fudgy - not powdery like hard-boiled eggs. Cook them 4-5 minutes longer if you prefer them well done.)
3) Meanwhile, place the asparagus on the baking sheet and add the oil. Toss with your hands to coat evenly. Sprinkle with a touch of salt. Roast for 5 minutes until bright green and just tender.
4) Arrange the salad leaves on a platter and top with asparagus (warm or cold), and the eggs. Pour the dressing over and serve. Alternatively, pack for a picnic: keep the peeled eggs whole, and pack in a crush-proof container with the cooled asparagus. Transport the dressing in a small jar or container with a tight lid.
Explore hampers from Celia Brooks
Our popular Curated by Celia range offers two wonderful hampers filled to bursting with high quality ingredients, as well as a copy of Celia's SuperVeg recipe book.
Explore the hampers, as well as recipe videos and more.
The high quality ingredients will ameliorate many delicious meals and impress and wow your diners. It's the perfect gift for yourself or for those who adore cooking.
What are you waiting for?