Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Asparagus Season and My Favourite Spring Lunch

Okay, so most of the food things I write about here tend to be my ‘favourite’ something or other. What can I say? I write about what I like. This is my ultimate lunch when the sun is shining, everything is coming to life in April and the long-awaited asparagus season has begun. And it is a long-awaited season. I adore asparagus but I keep myself far away from it all year round just to be able to enjoy it even more during that short window between April and June when it is all around, standing tall and green and proud. The little beauties.

Just thinking about this lunch now makes me smile. Simply and far-from revolutionary, it’s fresh, new season asparagus fried in butter and oil (with a whole fat clove of garlic and salt and pepper to flavour everything, plus a squeeze of lemon at the end to make it sparkle), a poached egg or two on top, loads of Lincolnshire Poacher cheese is grated over and this all stretches and oozes over of a slice of bread which sucks up all the salty-lemony-buttery-yolky juices. It really is just a little moment of perfection how everything works together – the charred crunch of earthy-sweet asparagus, the slick rich yolk, the salty bite of the cheese, the soft chewyness of the bread… This is my food heaven.

And would you believe it, it’s also great with beer! Try pairing a wine with this and you’ll get yourself in all kinds of bother. Instead, pop the crown off a bottle of English-style IPA - Meantime’s IPA, Downton’s Chimera, Thornbridge’s Halcyon and Worthington’s White Shield would all be totally awesome. Their grassy, earthy notes along with the sweet malt backbone and the dry, lingering hops just have a wild fling with the richness of the yolk and cheese while the fresh spears of asparagus are enhanced by everything the beer can throw at it.

What could be better? And it’s all just so bloody gloriously English that it makes me proud.


  1. And I was thinking it was very German! :D Well, apart from the availability of the ales that is.

    In the region I live in it's Spargel season now. You can't walk down the street here without being assaulted by asparagus sellers. My wife and son have been eating the stuff every bloody day for the past week and a half, and I can probably look forward to it for another few weeks. They've even found they like the stuff raw! Go to a bar or restaurant? Bloody spears of the stuff on everything.
    < / rant >
    I hate the stuff :D

  2. Haha! Just embrace it, it's only around for a short while every year!

    I've had it quite a lot in the last week, I've got it tomorrow too and I'm sure the weekend will bring a risotto or tart or something, and that for me is a good thing, maybe less so for you though... :)

  3. I wonder is it like eating garlic. Ya know? If everyone eats it you don't notice the garlic breath as much (I love garlic btw)?

    Could be the same with asparagus piss. I could be tempted to embrace it so! :D

  4. you could be right and there's only one way to find out...

    I read some interesting things about asparagus piss. Firstly, it doesn't affect everyone, and secondly, some of the people it does affect can't actually smell it. How weird. One thing's for sure, I wouldn't like to use the urinals at an asparagus festival!!

  5. Ok, I get it now. You are now The Director of Food & Beer Pairing for the APRK.

  6. I had asparagus, poached egg and smoked haddock this evening... delicious!
    I am definately a member of the asparagus fan club!

    I always think a Belgian Tripel is the way to go with asparagus, particularly Westmalle. Although it wouldn't pair so well with the smoked haddock... but asparagus, dippy or poached eggs and hollandaise with a Westmalle Tripel... thats one heavenly meal!

  7. Wurst, the Director of Food and Beer Pairing?! That sounds completely frivilous and unnecessary! I'm in!

    BA, I'll open up a tripel next time I'm cooking asparagus. I haven't got any Westmalle but there's a few others in the cupboard. And asparagus, poached egg and smoked haddock is fantastic. Yum.

  8. All good, but how did I know you were going to pair it with an American IPA?

  9. Tim, they are all English IPAs!

    I've been thinking and I reckon some decent pale ales and bitters would be great with this too. Some of the Brakspear beers, Fuller's London Pride and Discovery, Darkstar Hophead. Lots of great choices for this one...

  10. I'm definitely right there in the asparagus-lovers' camp with you, Mark. One great combination I've found is to add soy sauce to liven those spears up with a different twist. Have any other preferred methods of cooking them?

    And as for the asparagus-pee issue (to take the conversation's level of class down a notch), maybe I'm walking around 'like my piss don't stink', because I normally don't detect anything - but I'd have reason for concern and a lot of questions if somebody else did!

  11. E.S.D., I cook it all kinds of ways. Stir frys, barbequed is excellent, I've made tarts with it and risottos finished with cream cheese. It's a great vegetable but I tend to have it simply fried most of the time, especially if it's fresh.

    And interesting pee comment... No we need to ascertain whether it doesn't smell or whether you just can't detect the smell!! There's an experiment for the weekend :) ewww...

  12. I love asparagus, one of my absolute favorites. I do an awesome salad with steamed asparagus, fried crispy parma ham, rocket, a poached egg and shavings of parmesan. Yum.

    As for the pee thing, it is caused by genetics. The able to smell asparagus pee and the ability to produce asparagus pee is much, much more common in the US.

  13. That's the beauty of things like this - the simplicity. Asparagus and egg and cheese and bread. Can't go wrong! I've not thought to try beer with it though. I shall rectify this.

  14. Looks like a perfect lunch Mark. The asparagus season is so short that it'd be rude not to gorge on it!