It’s wonderful to buy the first veggies or fruit of the season. Asparagus have been on the shelves for a few weeks now. Visually and taste-wise (if you like delicate food) they are real crowd-pleasers, either as an accompaniment to a fish or chicken dish or as a main salad served with bread as a brunch or light supper dish.
Both the fatter white spears and the slim green spears are delicious but I have a preference for the green spears, finding them nuttier in taste and more versatile.
They are very difficult to grow and have been described by one gardening expert as the diva of veggies as they need high maintenance and there’s a long wait for the spears to shoot up from the earth with a lot of watering, which given our drought conditions is probably not adviseable right now.
So it’s best not to go down that path and better to rather seek out asparagus from your local market or supermarket.
Ensure they are firm to the touch when you gently press the fatter base and that they spring backwhen you press the tips.
Asparagus needs the minumum of cooking time and there are various ways to do this: you can either steam them; boil them briskly by plunging them briefly in hot water; roast them for a few minutes once your oven has heated to a high temperature; put them under the grill or on a griddle pan on the braai. The three latter methods really brings out their flavour, enhancing that earthy and nutty character.
One of the simplest and best ways to eat asparagus is to roast them and wrap parma ham around them which you can serve as a starter or to serve them blanched or roasted with salmon; a match made in heaven.
I made a brunch dish with mine which was light, easy and took a few minutes to prepare.
One bunch of slim fresh green asparagus
1 cup of fresh, shelled peas or frozen garden peas
1 handful torn dill
1/2 cup sour cream
Roast or grill the asparagus for a few minutes and taste one ensuring the thicker base is cooked but they remain firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and blanch the peas so that they retain their colour.
In a flat bowl scatter the asparagus and then the peas. Scatter a few small gem lettuce leaves around. Last poach the eggs and gently place on top of the salad.
Drizzle some olive oil on top and using the back of a teaspoon dot around some sour crea and some torn dill fronds.
Finally scatter a few capers on top and serve immeditaely so that the eggs remain hot – the yolks should be cooked but not too runny .
Serve with whole wheat bread or toast soldiers.
If it’s a boozy brunch a sauvignon blanc or chenin goes down a treat; if not freshly squeezed ornage juice does the trick.