New season English asparagus is naturally sweet and grassy and is just as good raw as cooked. Try it this way with fresh, raw broad beans and peas in a lemony, creamy vinaigrette and sprinkle over a handful of quickly sizzled smoked pancetta as I did, or dollops of soft goats’ cheese.
It makes a lovely, light starter or lunch, perfect for a sunny Spring day out of doors (fingers crossed for the Bank Holiday weekend). Assembling it is a last-minute thing but it’s so quick to make it really is no trouble. The quantities are very rough – add and subtract according to taste and availability.
I like this creamy dressing but I confess it is prone to splitting if you don’t use it straight away. To resolve this either add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard with the hard-boiled egg yolk (I didn’t want a mustardy taste) or, if it does separate, break a fresh (raw) egg yolk into a clean bowl and whisk in the split dressing a bit at a time. It’ll come together much more easily than making a classic mayonnaise.
Shaved Asparagus Salad
About 8 fat stalks of asparagus
A big handful of fresh peas, podded (or frozen, at a pinch, defrosted)
A big handful of baby broad beans
The yolk of one hard-boiled egg
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon (scrub it under hot water before zesting if it’s been waxed)
About 80-100 ml olive oil, to taste
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar
A big handful of diced pancetta (if using)
Make the vinaigrette: crush the hard-boiled egg yolk with the lemon zest and juice and whisk well to blend. Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar.
Blanch the broad beans for one minute in boiling water and unless they’re small and bright green, slip off the skins. Run them under the cold tap to arrest cooking and drain. Pod the peas.
Snap the woody ends off the asparagus where the stalks bend and discard. Using a vegetable peeler and starting at the stalk end, shave the asparagus into long strips and place in a bowl. You’ll have a few endy bits but you can save them for a risotto or soup. Add the broad beans and peas to the salad bowl.
Whisk up the vinaigrette again if it has separated (see above) and drizzle over two or three tablespoons, turning the veg to coat. The beans and peas always fall to the bottom so fish some out and
throw them on top arrange them artistically.
Add a small splash of olive oil to a pan and frizzle the cubed pancetta until it’s turning golden. Lift out with a slotted spoon and scatter over the salad. Eat at once.