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Eat the Seasons - April 2013

In season this month


Fruits & Nuts

Forced Rhubarb

Vegetables & Herbs

Cabbages, Cauliflower, Morel Mushrooms, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Spring Greens, Lettuce, Radishes, Sea Kale, Sorrel, Watercress

Meat & Game

Lamb, wood Pigeon

Fish & Shellfish

Crab, Sardine

Going out of season

Cockles, Oysters, Venison, Wild Garlic, Winkles

 

Suzanne loves this time of year as, week by week more and more seasonal, British produce starts to appear in the shops, bringing with it the promise of plenty in the coming months.

One of our absolute favourite vegetables is English Asparagus – whilst imported varieties are available all year round, the British stuff, which is by far and away the best, is available from (if we are lucky) late April until July - the season is probably going to be on the short side this year given the weather, so make the most of it whilst you can.

Asparagus are the young shoots of a cultivated lily plant, and are pretty labour-intensive to grow. They are considered to be one of the delicacies of the vegetable world, with a price tag to match, and have a distinct, intense savoury flavour. Sprue is the term for young, very slender asparagus.

When buying look for straight and firm shoots with tightly furled and perky tips, avoid anything that looks limp.  To store wrap in damp kitchen paper, put in a perforated paper or plastic bag and keep in the salad drawer of the fridge.

Sprue needs no preparation other than a wash but for larger asparagus (which will also have more flavour), bend the spear until it snaps and throw the woody end away. If the ends still feel tough, you can pare away the exterior to reveal the more tender flesh beneath.

The joy of asparagus is that it really doesn’t require much preparation – here are some very quick and simple ways to serve it;

  • Boil for 3-5 minutes, or steam for 4-5 minutes, depending on size then serve with Hollandaise sauce or hot melted butter.
  • Chop and bake in a quiche or combine with peas, podded broad beans, young spinach leaves and basil for pasta primavera.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt, brush with oil and roasted for 15 minutes or grill for 5 minutes, and serve with Parmesan shavings and a spritz of lemon juice, or wrapped in prosciutto.
  • Serve with a mimosa dressing – receipe below (this also works with leeks if asparagus isn’t easily available).

Asparagus (or Leek) Mimosa with Toasted Hazlenuts – Serves 6-8
Ingredients;

  • 3lbs of Asparagus (or leeks) white and pale-green parts only, peeled if necessary (for leeks halve them lengthwise).  Rinse well
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustrd
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 ounce skinless hazlenuts, toasted and chopped

Directions;

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange Asparagus (or leeks) on a rimmed baking sheet, and brush generously with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, flipping once, until tender and gold, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly on the sheet.
  • Meanwhile, place eggs in a medium saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath. Remove from heat; let eggs stand in the water for 12 minutes. Transfer eggs to ice-water bath to cool for 10 minutes. Halve eggs and remove yolks. Finely grate whites on the medium holes of a box grater; place in a small bowl. Grate or crumble yolks; place in another small bowl.
  • Whisk together mustard, orange zest and juice, lemon juice, and shallot. Slowly add oil, whisking until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange leeks on a platter. Scatter whites and yolks on top. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, and garnish with orange zest. Serve immediately.