After a recent visit to the kitchen garden here at Dunbrody, I was delighted to see some wonderful delicate stems of asparagus.
I remember when we first planted these at Dunbrody, my gardener said to me that it was going to be a long slow process until we would yield enough for the kitchen. This is because the plants need to establish themselves for a few years before they’re suitable to harvest. If you have some asparagus growing in your garden and wish to harvest them, either cut them at the base, or break the spears off in a quick movement at from the base.
If you are buying asparagus, look out for tight green tips and stalks that are sturdy and moist; asparagus with a woody, bendy stalk is past its prime. Also, after your trip to the garden or to the shop, keep your asparagus chilled until ready to cook, otherwise the stalks will become tough and stringy and lose their flavour.
The season for these wonderful green spears is quite short, normally from the end of April onwards for about 8 weeks, though I don’t think ours will last that long!
When preparing your asparagus for cooking, cut off about 1 – 2 inches from the base of the plant; this part can be quite woody when cooked, and can be reserved and used in soups (see my cream of asparagus soup recipe). If making my soup, you can also use any misshapen or broken spears, so nothing goes to waste.
There are a few different ways to cook asparagus, however it’s important never to overcook them; not only are they losing their nutritional value but they will wilt and be soggy and bland too, definitely not how they should be served.
You will see many asparagus recipes asking for them to be blanched; this is a simple process of just cooking them quickly in boiling water, then removing them to a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Otherwise, they can be cooked in a griddle pan or just oven roasted and served simply lathered in melted butter. Delish!
For special occasions, such as Father’s Day, I love getting breakfast in bed, specifically eggs Benedict (see my eggs Benedict with asparagus spears recipe) - it’s a rare treat, and one that my children (under the watchful eye of Catherine!) lovingly prepare for me! What I enjoy most about this recipe is the soft poached eggs, and the tender asparagus spears smothered in the rich hollandaise sauce. It’s a perfect breakfast for any special occasion.