English asparagus spears (or sprues) are like the supermodels of the edible plant world. Tall, slim and elegant, they have been enjoyed as a gourmet food as far back as Roman times and their appearance in April has always been a cause for celebration among foodies, partly due to their distinctive flavour and partly due to the brevity of their season, which lasts only eight weeks.
When I worked in hotels we had special asparagus themed menus each year. The spears were steamed upright in special pans and served on silver trays with uniquely shaped tongs, designed to keep the delicate stems intact. Nowadays you can buy asparagus all year round in the supermarket although you can’t beat delicate the flavour of the freshly picked, seasonal sprues.
One of my favourite and easiest ways of cooking asparagus is on a griddle brushed with a little olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. It’s the perfect finger food to accompany a glass of wine sitting in the garden on a sunny day.
Sadly the sun has been mostly absent recently and it has felt unseasonably cold, so instead of being grilled for an outdoor treat, the last of my spears ended up in a warming bowl of soup. Thankfully it was delicious.
The combined flavours of the asparagus, peas and courgette was so amazing that I made a note of it in my recipe file and decided to share it with you to mark the end of the asparagus season for another year. Hopefully by the time English asparagus is back in the shops next Spring we will be celebrating its return in a more normal world!
- To remove the inedible woody part of the stem, hold each spear between both hands and bend it until the tougher part snaps off.
- I like to keep the delicate asparagus tips separate from the rest of the asparagus until after the soup has finished cooking and been liquidised. I then add the tips and cook for about a minute. This brings out their flavour and adds texture to the soup.
Serves: 2 – 3
- 1 bundle of asparagus spears (250g)
- 1 cup of peas
- 1 small courgette, (finely diced)
- 1 onion, (finely diced)
- 1 and1/4 litre of good quality vegetable stock.
- 2 tbspns olive oil
- Wash asparagus and remove woody parts of stems as described above. Slice off the tips and set to one side until later. Chop the rest of the spears into smaller, even sized pieces.
- Heat oil in a soup pan and gently fry the onion until soft. Then add the chopped asparagus and courgette and fry for a few minutes.
- Add stock and cook on a moderate heat for about twenty minutes.
- Add peas and cook gently for a further 10 minutes.
- Liquidise the cooked vegetables and adjust seasoning, if required.
- Before serving reheat soup and add the tips to the hot liquid allow them to soften in the pan for about a minute.
- Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!
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