The Season of Spears
Hooray – the British Asparagus season has officially arrived!
Spearing proudly through the nutritious, sandy soil that has been its protective blanket through the British winter, these gorgeous tender, green stalks are at their best for the next two months.
Carefully nurtured from either seed or dormant crowns, these perennial plants are rooted in the lily family with allium cousins such as the garlic and onion who complements asparagus perfectly in the kitchen.
Although tracing back to Roman times, growing asparagus is no easy task, but more and more British asparagus farmers are cropping up the length and breadth of the country.
Highly nutritious, packed full of fibre, folic acid and vitamins A, B and C, asparagus is a another super-green spring has to offer. Sweet and tender, these super spears need very little doing to them in terms of preparation or cooking, instantly making them the perfect supper side, or even a simple meal’s main event.
Not wanting to overpower their delicious delicateness, I looked to develop a recipe that enhanced the stems’ earthy, sweet flavour and retained their vibrancy and freshness. Dairy is surprisingly supportive of asparagus making for a decadent dish – particularly a runny yolk and a mild cheese sauce for dipping!
This week’s recipe is a cracking one for an extra special brunch; Asparagus with buttermilk pancakes, poached egg and cheese and chive sauce.
I have chosen to use a distinct yet delicately flavoured, semi-hard sheep cheese from Wootton Organic Dairy in mid-Somerset for my cheese and chive sauce . Be sure to use a cheese that as bite but one not to overwhelm the simplicity of this dish’s star.
- 175g self raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 100ml buttermilk
- 200ml milk
- 1 egg
- 10g chives, chopped
- Butter for frying
- Cheese & chive sauce
- 25g butter
- 25g plain flour
- 1 pint milk
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- 60g cheese, grated
- 10g chives, chopped
- Poached eggs
- Dash of vinegar
- 4 eggs
- 12 spears asparagus
- Knob of butter
- To make the pancakes, combine the flour, baking powder and seasoning in one bowl and the buttermilk, milk and egg in another. Gradually tip the dry ingredients into the wet, whisking continually until a smooth batter is achieved. Stir through the chives.
- Heat a non-stick pan on a medium heat and grease with a little butter. Ladle in the batter, one pancake at a time. Flip the pancake when bubbles appear on the surface and cook for another couple of minutes on the other side. Keep pancakes warm in a low oven separated by greaseproof paper.
- Once the pancakes are made, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a pan on a medium heat before stirring in the flour to create a roux. Cook out the flour for a couple of minutes ensuring it doesn’t stick to the pan. Whisking continually, gradually add the milk to form a smooth sauce. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper and the grated cheese until melted before finishing with the chives.
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil with a dash of vinegar. Heat a griddle pan with a knob of butter. Place the asparagus on the griddle and cook for 3 – 5 minutes depending on their thickness. Swirl the water in the pan before carefully dropping in the eggs – you may want to do this in batches. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes.
- Stack pancakes and top with the asparagus. Rest the poach egg on top of the asparagus and spoon over the cheese sauce. Serve with extra chopped chives.