Asparagus – Seasonal and Local
To me, no other vegetable says ‘spring’ quite like British asparagus. These imposing, somewhat phallic spears, herald the start of longer, sunnier days to come and deserve their position as a luxurious vegetable, a touch of decadence on our plates. My favourite way to enjoy asparagus is quickly pan-fried, with loads of butter and salt, but I also love a pie! So, our recipe for you today is another indulgent way of enjoying the vegetable on one of those chillier spring evenings.
We’re no Tom and Barbara living ‘The Good Life’ (those under 40 look it up on YouTube) but we do have asparagus growing in the garden. The plant was inherited from our late Uncle Barry (Sparrow’s) garden and is a wonderful reminder of him and how he loved his garden. To Russ’ delight the asparagus thrived and to my disgust, he picked and ate the spears raw. However, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it…and make me try it, he did! I never like to admit it, but Russ was right and it’s now a regular addition tossed into our salads. Do give it a go, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Asparagus season traditionally starts on St George’s day, ending on the summer solstice and superstition has it, that picked after this date brings bad luck. Now, I’m not particularly superstitious, but I really would encourage you to think about eating seasonally. Of course, we can pretty much buy an array of fresh produce at any time of the year nowadays, but there’s no escaping the fact that eating seasonally, not only is better for the environment, it also supports our local farmers and tastes far better than produce that has accumulated air miles and therefore diminished in taste.
The facts…Asparagus is a superfood, incredibly healthy, low in calories and full of antioxidants. It’s packed full of vitamin A an essential nutrient that helps to protect our eyes, skin, boosts the immune system and, some say, the libido (keep eating it Russ!) Asparagus also contains vitamin C which is involved in collagen formation and vitamin K, essential for bone health. There is even some evidence that asparagus may ease a hangover and may help reduce damage to the liver (keep eating it Amanda!) What can’t this vegetable do? It even has the ability to make your wee smell! A distinctive aroma that people appear to smell differently and strangely some can’t smell at all. Yes, if you’re lucky enough to not notice the sulphuric compounds produced then you have a condition called ‘asparagus anosmia’, it’s not contagious, no mask or gloves necessary…but do still wash your hands!
‘Superfood’ lecture over…bring on the pie.
CHICKEN, CHESTNUT MUSHROOM AND ASPARAGUS PIE Serves 4
50 g plain flour
2 shallots, finely diced
½ tsp garlic granules
250 ml chicken stock
142ml carton of double cream
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved (or quartered if large)
400g cooked chicken, chopped into large chunks (breast or thigh meat – whatever you have or prefer)
200g asparagus, any woody ends removed and cut into 4cm pieces
1 tsp dried tarragon
500 g puff pastry (ready made from the supermarket is fine!) 1 egg beaten to glaze
- Pre heat your oven to 210c/ 190c fan/ Gas mark 6
- Melt 25g butter in a pan and fry the mushrooms until just starting to colour. Scoop out of the pan and place in a pie dish (or any oven proof dish with approx. 2-pint (1litre) capacity).
- Add the remaining butter to the pan and gently cook the shallots until soft and translucent. Stir in the flour, along with the garlic granules and cook on a low heat for 1-2 minutes. It will resemble a sandy paste. “LOW HEAT and WATCH IT “or it will burn…
- Increasing to a medium heat, pour in the sherry and sizzle, then gradually pour in the chicken stock. Keep stirring the sauce as you add the stock. Using a whisk to stir in liquid will ensure a lump free, smooth and silky sauce.
- Simmer for a few minutes, allowing the sauce to thicken, before finally adding your cream and the tarragon. Continue to simmer for a couple of minutes, season to taste, then remove from the heat. The sauce should be beautifully rich and thick but still of a pouring consistency.
- Add the pieces of asparagus and cooked chicken to the pie dish, ensuring an even spread of ingredients throughout. Pour over the sauce, making sure it sinks all the way thorough to the bottom, and covers the filling evenly.
- Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Drape the pastry over the pie mixture. If your dish doesn’t have a rim, trim and tuck the edges of the pastry into the dish, pushing gently into the sides to seal. If using a rimmed pie dish, take the pastry over the rim and seal by gently pressing one finger all around the rim to seal and create a fluted pattern. Trim the edges with a knife to make a neat edge. Don’t worry too much about the fluting or making a pretty edge, the idea is just to seal the pie to prevent seepage of the filling whilst it cooks.
- If you like, you can use your pastry trimmings to decorate the pie lid. Lightly brush over beaten egg to glaze, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and cut an inch slit in the middle of the lid, to allow steam to escape whilst cooking.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and the filling is piping hot.
- Serve with your choice of potatoes and veg.
Bring on the Wine
Obviously, we always suggest good food should not be eaten without a good wine, so here is our recommendation for this recipe. As it’s a rich creamy dish it can cope with richer, buttery wines like warm climate chardonnays. Obviously, Amanda is a far more accomplished drinker than I am, so she has informed me that warm climate chardonnays are from countries such as Australia or North America. So, to complement our pie we recommend ‘19 crimes Chard’.
A beautiful South-eastern Australian wine, light amber in colour with flavours of butter, oak and vanilla, medium minerals, light citrus acidity and a sweet end. Trust me at under a tenner it is a worthwhile buy, ranked in the top 7% of south Eastern Australian wines and in the top 9% of wines in the world according to www.vivino.com
I know it sounds a little bit gimmicky but quite a nice little added feature to the 19 crimes gang is the living wine’s app that you can download for your tablet or phone. I will leave it as a bit of a surprise but have a look at this video that we did earlier. Do not be put off by their marketing ploy as all of the wines in the range are worthy of at least trying and I think you will be pleasantly surprised…
As always any questions/comments regarding this or any of our recipes and articles, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org We would love to hear from you.