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WHAT'S ON THIS WEEK
Three cheers for spears…
The season is short and the flavour sublime, so make the most of crisp and healthy British asparagus while you can with these innovative ideas from TV chef Valentine Warner
British asparagus with soft egg and anchovy dressing
Local growers where you can buy fresh asparagus include:
Mr & Mrs J M Harlow
Farm shop at 1 Westenhanger Cottage, Maidstone Road, Horsmonden TN12 8DD. Call 01892 722 533 or visit
Farm shop at Frogshole Farm, Sissinghurst Road, Biddenden TN27 8EY. Call 01580 291196. Open 9am to 5pm, seven days a week.
Farm shop at South Brockwells Farm, Little Horsted, near Uckfield TN22 5QS. Call 01825 750466 or visit www.sussexasparagus.co.uk.
Open 9am to 6pm, seven days a week during the asparagus season.
A perfect starter for dinner or a very respectable summer lunch when the weather is hot and you don’t want to sit down to anything more substantial
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary
1 egg yolk
70g white anchovies (vinegared in oil, not the brown salted ones)
50ml whole milk
4 tbsp olive oil
A splash of double cream (optional)
4 bundles of British asparagus, washed
and trimmed (30 spears)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning
1. Finely chop the garlic and rosemary and put in a small bowl with the egg yolk and anchovies.
2. In a small pan warm the milk, taking it off just before it simmers. Pour over the anchovies and blitz the mix with a hand-held blender. With the blender on low, drizzle in the olive oil very slowly until you have a nice creamy dressing. This sauce can be finished with a little double cream (50ml), if liked.
3. Place the eggs in a pan of cold water. Bring the water up to the boil and then boil the eggs for 4½ minutes. Drain, cool quickly in cold water and peel away the shell.
4. In a separate pan, put the asparagus in enough boiling water to cover it, bring it back up to the boil and cook for no more than 1½ minutes. Drain, then run under cold water and dry thoroughly.
5. Arrange 5 spears of asparagus on each warm serving plate. Swiftly cut the eggs in half so not to let the middle run out and place each half on the asparagus. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then drizzle over some of the dressing. Serve immediately.
British asparagus cigars
This is a great little snack for parties, so simple, it’s a winning little time saver. Double or triple the recipe as they disappear quickly
Serves 16 sharing
4 bundles of British asparagus
4 sheets of filo pastry, thawed if frozen
50g butter, melted
2 handfuls of finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 190C, 350F, Gas 5 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
2. Cook the asparagus in salted water, cooking it for only 1-2 minutes once it has come back to the boil. Drain and cool the asparagus in cold water, then drain again, making sure it’s thoroughly dry with a tea towel.
3. Cut the asparagus two-thirds of the way down, either discarding the lower stem or saving it for a soup, such as pea, asparagus and sorrel.
4. Take 1 sheet of filo pastry, brush it lightly but thoroughly all over with melted butter. Repeat with the other sheets, then cut each piece into 4. Place an asparagus spear along the bottom of the filo piece and roll snugly but not over tightly.
5. Picking each one up carefully with your fingers, brush the outside again with butter then scatter the grated Parmesan over the top of each one. Arrange them on the prepared tray with the outside edge of the filo facing down on the paper – this stops them unravelling as they cook. Season well with freshly ground black pepper then cook in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until deep golden and crispy.
British asparagus, ricotta and pancetta pizza
This is a great supper dish for sharing or makes an colourful – and tasty – addition to an alfresco brunch at the weekend
Makes 2 medium pizzas,
serving 4 each
For the dough
250ml tepid water
1 tsp caster sugar
1 x 7g sachet easy blend dried yeast
300g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 heaped tsp flaked sea salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for greasing
For the topping
2 bundles of British asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 4 lengthways
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
300ml tinned chopped tomatoes
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
200g ricotta cheese
1 large handful of dried oregano leaves
A handful of grated pecorino cheese
12 thin slices of pancetta
1. To make the dough, pour the water into a large bowl and gently stir in the sugar and yeast. Set aside for around 10 minutes until the water has a thick beige foam floating on top. Add half the flour and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry about clumps in the flour, as these will soon disappear.
2. Gradually add half the remaining flour and continue stirring. Once it’s all incorporated, add the remaining flour and the salt, crushing it between your fingers. Mix with clean hands. As soon as the dough forms a soft, spongy ball, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 8 minutes. Add a little more flour if it’s too wet. By this time the dough should be smooth, elastic and no longer sticking to your hands.
3. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size – 45-60 minutes.
4. Halfway through the rising time, preheat the oven to 220C, 425F, Gas 7.
5. While the dough rests and rises, prepare the asparagus pieces in a bowl, drizzle with a little oil and sprinkle with salt then turn until well greased.
6. Heat the oil with the garlic in a pan and cook it gently for 2 minutes or so – it must not fry and colour. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and sugar and simmer briskly for 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly, getting rid of any obviously water element. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
7. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knock back with mild blows from your fist. Tear the dough in half and stretch, or flatten with a rolling pin, until about the thickness of a £1 coin. Place each pizza base on a lightly floured baking sheet (if it overlaps the tray, cut a little off one end) and brush on top with a little more oil.
8. When ready to assemble, spread half the sauce over each pizza base leaving a clean and narrow margin around the edge. Spread the ricotta over the tomato sauce, scatter over the asparagus pieces and season well with freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle over the oregano leaves.
9. Scatter over the greated pecorino and arrange the pancetta slices over the top. Finally, drizzle the whole pizza with a generous amount of olive oil.
10. Transfer the pizza to the preheated oven and cook for 12-15 minutes – the base should be very crispy. Serve the pizza immediately with a mixed green salad, if liked.
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