They’re onto a good thing and they know it. According to tradition, the Vale season starts on St George’s Day and ends on Midsummer’s Day because local growers would “never cut beyond the midsummer bud”.
Their annual British Asparagus Festival draws big crowds but sadly I won’t be among them. We are however still cutting from our own crop so here, in tribute to asparagus growers everywhere, are a couple more sparrowgrass recipes. Although I like asparagus simply steamed or roasted (and in soups and risottos) sometimes it’s good to ring the changes.
I do like to keep it simple though. Locally-grown asparagus is a seasonal treat and imported spears just don’t have the same flavour, so drowning that fresh, green taste would be a food crime.
Asparagus With Broad Beans and Air-Dried Ham
A bunch of asparagus spears
A big handful of baby broad beans, podded
A small bunch of spring onions, the bulbs sliced into fat chunks (save the green part for throwing, finely sliced, into a salad)
A big handful of air-dried ham (Serrano or similar), diced into 1cm cubes
A small handful of parsley, chopped
Trim the asparagus spears by snapping off the woody end (if you want to be thrifty, put them into a vegetable stock).
Blanch the asparagus and broad beans in boiling water for just a couple of minutes. Plunge into cold water to cool.
Cut the asparagus spears into three or four lengths. Slip the beans out of their skins.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil in a frying pan and frazzle the ham for a couple of minutes.
Throw in the white part of the spring onions and fry for a couple of minutes more, until they’re just beginning to tinge with colour.
Add the blanched asparagus and beans to the pan and heat through gently.
Squeeze in the juice of about half a lemon and stir through the parsley. Eat warm or cold.
Asparagus and Pesto Tart
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
1 tub of pesto
1 generous bunch of asparagus spears (around 20), trimmed of their woody ends
A little egg wash or milk
Preheat the oven to 400 F/ 200 C/ gas mark 6.
Unroll the pastry onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. With a sharp knife, score a line 2cm in from the edges, without cutting all the way through the pastry. This will form an edge when the tart is cooked.
Prick the centre part lightly all over with a fork, then spread it with pesto. Arrange the asparagus spears, cut to the same length, in a neat row on the top.
Brush the edges with egg wash or milk and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the spears can be pierced with the tip of a knife.