By Nicholas Balfe
The Waiting Game
Waiting for the first of the British asparagus to arrive can be a torturous process. Every year from around mid-May, I find myself having lengthy conversations with growers, suppliers and wholesalers about the finer points of meteorology and microclimates in their part of the country. We try to second guess weather reports, and predict, often inaccurately when those slender green spears may appear in my kitchen. It’s always worth the wait though, and whilst the imported varieties from Spain, Italy, or dare I say, Peru, may have their merits to some, I’d never substitute them for beautiful organic specimens we’ve been getting from Kent and the Wye Valley.
The season may be short and frustratingly unpredictable, but that’s part of the joy of all our home-grown fruits and vegetables. There’s a genuine and discernible sweetness from a fresh asparagus that it’s air-freighted counterpart from a distant continent could never compete with. In fact, whilst in season, I try to cook and eat asparagus every day if I can, so over the years I’ve included them in everything from soups to salads, to sizzling them on BBQs, although the seasons for that can be frustratingly unpredictable too!
Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs and Sobrasada
A perfect brunch or light lunch where the clean, delicate asparagus provides the foil for the rich, slightly spicy eggs. Serves two.
- A bunch of asparagus
- Six free range eggs
- A big blob of Sobrasada – a spicy, spreadable sausage, originating from Majorca, although you can find a excellent British made version at Cannon & Cannon (or use cooking chorizo)
- A drizzle of sunflower or vegetable oil
- Two knobs of butter
- A splash of cream
- Two pieces of good quality toast (e.g. BrickHouse from Cannon & Cannon or Bread Bread from the stall outside Wild Caper)
- Salt and pepper
First, beat the eggs with the cream, and cook in a sauce pan with a little oil in the bottom over a very low heat, stirring continually with a spatula or wooden spoon.
Snap the woody ends off the bottom of the asparagus and trim with a pairing knife if you want neat edges. Heat a shallow pan with a lid, add a knob butter and a splash of water, and swirl the pan around to mix the two together. When the butter is melted and the water is hot, add the asparagus, season with salt, and cover with a lid. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes – the fresher the asparagus, the less cooking time it will need – jiggling the pan a little as you go so the spears cook evenly.
Meanwhile, the eggs will have started to thicken and get creamy. When they’re done to your liking, stir in the sobrasada, then the butter and take off the heat – the butter helps to stop the cooking. Season with salt and a little pepper if you like.
Serve the asparagus and eggs together with hot toast, spread liberally with salted butter, or alternatively rubbed with garlic and olive oil.
Nicholas Balfe runs Salon (above) Cannon and Cannon, Market Row, serving modern British sourced food and wines with one of the bext views in Brixton. For bookings call 020 7501 9152. They offer a £15.95 3 course lunch with unlimited people watching…