I was pleasantly surprised to find Worcestershire asparagus on sale as early as March 1 this year. British asparagus growers struggle with the short season, and are always competing (if you don’t care where your asparagus is from) with imports from Peru and Spain, which have a much longer season than their British equivalent. And, for some reason, their asparagus is a fraction of the price of ours.
Anyway, my morals tell me to support our guys, as they certainly earn their money in that short season, and they seem to be doing their best to extend it year by year, even if they do have to encourage early spears in a forced environment. We do it with rhubarb, so why not asparagus?
Along with grouse, asparagus is a food we should honour.
The glorious August 12 strikes a chord in foodies’ minds, but asparagus deserves one hell of a celebration, too. I eat it at least a couple of times a week during its short season, and we run an asparagus menu in all the restaurants. As well as plain steamed asparagus (hot or cold), we do all sorts of fun dishes. This year, I’m thinking of doing a large Clarence Court seasonal egg, such as a goose egg, with asparagus spears to dip into it, like soldiers to share.
Chicken and asparagus soup
This is a good way to use up a chicken carcass and an abundance of asparagus. I’ve made this one from scratch with some chicken thighs, which are much better than using breast, as you get a tastier broth.
About 1½ litres of chicken stock
4 chicken thighs, skinned
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
100g-150g asparagus, trimmed of any woody stalks
2tbsp chopped parsley
60ml double cream
Put the chicken stock in a saucepan with the thighs, bring to the boil and gently simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove the thighs and leave to cool. In a clean pan, melt the butter and stir in the flour on a medium heat.
Gradually add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring well to avoid lumps forming-a whisk helps for this. Bring to the boil, season and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
Remove the bone from the chicken thighs and discard. Dice up the thighs and add to the soup. Slice up the asparagus on the angle and add to the soup with the parsley and cream and simmer for a minute. Re-season if necessary.