It’s Asparagus Season – the start of which is officially marked by St George’s Day on 23rd April and ends on Midsummer’s day June 24th. Well that’s the official take; the weather of course will have its own way. Generally, we have around 8 weeks to enjoy the asparagus season. Freshly grown sweet tender spears, preferably picked that morning – if you can get it! Your local farm shop will be your best bet.
When I think of asparagus I think of pancetta wrapped around it and a poached or boiled egg to dunk my green and meaty soldiers in. Although asparagus can be pricey, so I took the same ingredients and went down the risotto route – a main meal, where your asparagus is the still the star of the show.
It’s always worth making your own stock for a risotto – the base flavour of your dish will depend on it. I put some chopped carrots, spring onion, celery, a couple of bay leaves and the snapped off bases of the asparagus in the pressure cooker with 1.5ltrs of water – 1 hour on high pressure, job done. Keeps well in the fridge for around five days or put in ice trays and keep for a rainy day.
- 1 ltr vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 bunch of asparagus, bases snapped off
- 1 onion , finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
- 200g pancetta or streaky bacon, cut into lardons/chopped
- 300g Arborio or Carnaroli ‘risotto’ rice
- 1 medium glass of dry white wine (about 175ml)
- A good handful (around 50g) grated parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
- 4 egg yolks
- Boiling water.
- Bring your stock up to heat in a pan. Add your asparagus spears and poach for two to four minutes depending on how thick they are. Drain and then plunge your asparagus into cold water. Keep stock on a low simmer.
- Heat the olive oil and butter in another pan and then add your onions and garlic - sweat over the lowest heat, for around five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
- Turn the heat up to medium and add your pancetta or bacon. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the fat starts to render down.
- Stir in your rice and coat well with the bacon/onion mixture. Pour in your wine, give everything a vigorous stir and then let the wine reduce.
- Add a ladle or two of your stock to the pan, stir well and then let reduce. Continue this process for around 20 minutes – add stock, stir vigorously, allow to reduce – until the rice is cooked and the all stock used.
- Stir in your asparagus, a generous pinch of salt and pepper and roughly three quarters of the parmesan cheese. Turn off the heat, and cover.
- Pour boiling into a pan (I just used the stock pan), boil rapidly and then add your egg yolks. Poach for just a few seconds until the yolk colour changes and is sealed. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- Dish up your risotto, add the egg yolk, sprinkle over the remaining parmesan – eat.
Check out www.british-asparagus.co.uk for asparagus recipes, tips and info.