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Asparagus....The Crowning Glory of Angus

by Kathryn Baker

Asparagus, the fillet steak of the veggie world, is now at its prime and ready to go. What more could you want? We wait all year for these delicate green stems to shoot forth in May, heralding the start of summer and of food heaven as we know it. Here at Fresh Food Express, we are as excited as the next person when Rory from our neighbouring farm comes calling to say the time is right and the cutting can begin. The crowns that have lain dormant for many months under the cold winter soil, are ready to burst forth bringing a little taste of heaven to our plates.

Angus Asparagus by Fresh Food Express

Whether served simply roasted with shavings of Bonnet Hard Goat's Cheese and a scrunch of Hebridean Sea Salt, or as part of a creamy risotto, there is nothing quite like a bundle of Angus Asparagus to get the taste buds working. It is such a short season, our theory is that you can't have it often enough so get the green stuff loaded up on your plate. It really is delicIous!

All about the White Stuff

New for this year is white asparagus. Prized throughout Europe for its delicate favour, it is also grown locally and is ready to go right now. Similar to its green counterpart, it has a ridiculously short season (5-6 weeks) meaning we are champing at the bit to get this delicacy on to our plates as often as we can. White asparagus, like its green bed fellow is cut, packed and delivered to you within 24 hours, so you can't get any fresher than that!

White asparagus is grown using the process of etoilation which is the deprivation of light. Think of forced rhubarb as another example of this process. Dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk, depriving it of light. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green colour to the stalks.

This process has an impact on the asparagus spears making white asparagus slightly milder in flavour and a bit more tender than green asparagus. We recommend that you peel the white asparagus with a potato peeler or cheese slicer before cooking it as it can have a woodier exterior than the more traditional green spear we are familiar with.

Angus White Asparagus by Fresh Food Express

Asparagus Inspiration...

Anna Jones, who writes a column in the Guardian, and is a fellow lover of asparagus, inspired us with her recipe for this salad which really does make asparagus the shining star of the plate. By adding eggs and purple sprouting broccoli, Anna has made this into a more substantial meal. She prefers to shred the boiled eggs to achieve a texture that sits well next to that of the asparagus, and we agree. The punchy dressing of mustard and dijon, a “mimosa” of chardonnay vinegar, oil and herb, is balanced by some heady dill and buttery avocado. A salad with every tone of green – just like the spring Angus meadows. It works perfectly with asparagus.

RECIPE: Asparagus Mimosa Salad, serves 4

Anna Jones' Mimosa Salad, Fresh Food Express

Photograph: Issy Croker for the Guardian

6 eggs

500g asparagus

200g purple sprouting broccoli
½ shallot
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil - or why not try Cold Pressed Rapeseed oil from SUMMER HARVEST
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 ripe avocado
Bunch of fresh dill or fennel tops, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche (optional) - why not try Katy Rodger's Natural Yoghurt
Rye bread, to serve
Salt and black pepper

1. Boil the kettle. Put the eggs into a small pan and cover with hot water. Bring it back to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 7 minutes. Drain the eggs as soon as they are cooked and run them under cold water until they are cool enough to handle.

2. Meanwhile, snap the tough ends off the asparagus and discard them (or keep them for making stock). Chop the asparagus stems into 1cm rounds, stopping when you get near the top and keeping the tips intact. Chop the broccoli in the same way, stopping when you get close to the floret.

3. Put the asparagus tips and broccoli florets into a large saucepan and cover with boiling water. Add a pinch of salt and simmer for 3 minutes, then add the asparagus and broccoli rounds for the final minute.

4. Chop the shallot finely and put into a large mixing bowl. Add the vinegar, oil, mustard and a pinch of salt and black pepper, then stir to combine.

5. Once the green vegetables have finished cooking, drain in a colander and add them to the bowl while still warm. Toss in the dressing.

6. Halve, stone and cut the avocado into thick slices, then add them to the bowl.

7. Once the eggs have cooled, peel them and grate into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, grate over the zest of the lemon, scatter the dill or fennel on top and mix gently. If you like, you could add a tablespoon of creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt here.

8. Serve the veg with spoonfuls of the lemon-and-dill shredded eggs, and a little buttered rye bread, if you like.


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