Tomorrow is May bringing the first tantalising flavours of early summer. English asparagus, jersey royals, strawberries and mint are in the first flushes of their short intense season, a delicious change from winter root vegetables.
Of course these first delights of English summer can be grown all year round in hotter climates, but waiting for the home-grown crop to burst to life is a special kind of pleasure after long months of anticipation.
English asparagus, a vegetable with a fleeting season (approx 6-8 weeks), so tender and delicious is my favourite of all the early summer crops. It’s versatility means that it is easy to savour its delicate, tender sweetness by adding raw into salads, steaming briefly with salted butter, olive oil or hollandaise, or pairing with more robust partners such as romesco sauce.
Store like any other freshly cut stem – positioned upright in a glass with a little water – and eat as soon as possible after purchase. Preparations easy peasy, just wash the spears then snap off the slightly body ends.
Asparagus comes in a variety of colours, green, white and purple. Officially known as Asparagus Officials, it’s a member of the lily family. I’s an excellent source of vitamin K essential for blood clotting, folate, vitamin A and vitamin C Eating asparagus can provide your body with a range of antioxidants and good health.
Asparagus, Leek and Cheese tart.
Time: 30 minutes preparation
Serves: 4 people.
500g block ready to roll pastry
1 leek washed and finely sliced
5 asparagus spears cut at an angle
120g creme fraiche
120g good quality mature cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to season
1 tsp flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a large tart/flan tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into its 5cm larger than the tart case. Lift the pastry up and drape over the tart case. Carefully push the pastry into the edges of the tart case and chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
- Whilst pastry is chilling, melt butter in a small pan and add the leeks, stir occasionally until they are soft.
- Meanwhile cook the asparagus tips in boiling water for 5 minutes until soft. Drain straight away and immerse in cold water to help keep the colour.
- Beat the eggs, creme fraiche and cheese in a jug and the seasoning and parsley.
- Layer the base of the pastry case with the leeks.
- Pour over the egg mixture.
- Place the asparagus tips on top of the tart.
- Bake the tart for 30-40 minutes, until pastry is golden brown.
Match this delicious summer tart with a citrusy, herbal and unoaked Sancerre or Pouilly Fume from France’s Loire Valley, Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Alsace Riesling or unoaked Chardonnay.