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Spears of joy at asparagus season.

Byline: MICHAEL KILKIE

LEARN TO COOK WITH MICHAEL AT WWW.COOKSCHOOL GL ASGOW.CO.UK MICHAEL IS HEAD CHEF AT THE COOK SCHOOL AT THE TENNENT'S TRAINING ACADEMY Most of you probably won't know this but yesterday was a special day in the world of chefs and foodies.

It was the official start of the UK asparagus season - a very short season where you can buy UK-grown asparagus, lasting for roughly a month this year, until June 21.

It's not a strict season. There's every chance you may have seen UK-grown asparagus in the shops before the weekend and there may still be some lurking around for a week or two towards the end of the season - but officially those are the dates for the start and end of the season.

The reason chefs go wild for homegrown asparagus is simply the taste and the freshness.

There are no crazy air miles, it's just pretty much picked, packed and sold - particularly if you can collect it at a farm or a farmers' market. In that case, you can even forget the packing, just loose bunches everywhere.

Every year around this time, I come up with a recipe featuring asparagus.

But the message is always the same - keep it simple.

With something this good, you don't need to do anything too fancy.

All you need are a handful of other good-quality ingredients and some simple cooking techniques - and that's what I've done here.

I've used duck eggs today.

They are rich and luxurious, and complement the asparagus beautifully but feel free to use normal eggs if you can't get duck eggs or don't fancy them.

In my top tip, I give you some other simple ideas on how to get the best out of homegrown asparagus.

My top tip packed and sold - particularly asparagus. Try chopping blanched asparagus through scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and serve on toast. Serve chargrilled asparagus with vinaigrette or reduced balsamic vinegar and Parmesan shaved over the top. Or a toasted ciabatta rubbed with garlic to make a bruschetta and topped with Parma ham, chargrilled asparagus and a poached egg, finished with hollandaise.

ASPARAGUS, CIABATTA AND PARMA HAM SOLDIERS WITH SOFT BOILED DUCK EGGS Serves 4 INGREDIENTS 4 duck eggs, or normal eggs if you prefer 24 spears of asparagus, woody end snapped off 12 slices of Parma ham, cut in half length-ways to make 24 long slices 1 small ciabatta loaf 1/2tsp smoked paprika 1/2tsp chill flakes Salt ; 2tbsp olive oil METHOD 1 Cut the ciabatta into thin soldiers the same length as the asparagus. Place them on a baking sheet, drizzle them with the olive oil then sprinkle with paprika and chilli flakes and season with salt. Bake in the oven at 180C for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally until light golden and crispy.

2 Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for about three minutes until tender then drain and dry on kitchen roll.

3 Put one, two or three pieces of asparagus alongside one ciabatta soldier and wrap together tightly in one of the pieces of Parma ham, starting at the bottom and working up to the top. Repeat with all asparagus.

4 Place them all on a roasting tray and place in the oven at 180C for 5 minutes. Boil the ducks eggs for 6-7 minutes in boiling water.

5 Take the tops from the eggs and serve with the asparagus and ciabatta soldiers for dipping.

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How did your asparagus dish go?Let us know. Feedback, questions or favourite tips? Get in touch @ michaelkilkie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Article Type:Recipe
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 26, 2015
Words:597
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