Among the joys of spring and early summer for Londoners are the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Finals, and English asparagus and strawberries on expensive West End restaurant menus. Living now on the Isle of Wight, I shall enjoy the best of Chelsea and Wimbledon for free at home on my television without spending £200 for a pair of Chelsea tickets and over £4,000 for two Wimbledon Centre Court seats –while tucking into local asparagus and strawberries bought at Barrow Boys of Ryde, my local greengrocers.
I particularly like this simple recipe for a dish of asparagus with pasta by the esteemed Australian cookery writer Jill Dupleix. The best asparagus recipes are simple. In this recipe, the flavour of this delicious vegetable is not masked by being over herbed, over-sauced or over elaborate.
Ingredients Serves 4.
450g. English asparagus; 350g. tagliatelli; 4 free range eggs; 1 tbsp. light olive oil; 2 tbsp. walnut oil; 50g. grated Parmesan; sea salt to taste.
Method Preparation 30 minutes
1. Cut the woody ends off the asparagus, and discard. Halve the asparagus and simmer in salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender. Drain and quickly refresh under cold running water to retain their colour. 2. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until tender but firm to the bite. 3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over low heat, and gently break the eggs into it. Cover immediately and cook over very gentle heat for around 3-4 minutes, until the whites have just set and the yolks are still runny. 4. In the meantime, drain the pasta and toss it with the asparagus and walnut oil in the bowl. 5. Arrange on four warmed plates. 6. Separate each egg carefully from the others and gently lift out and place on the pasta. 7. Scatter with sea salt and serve with a bowl of grated Parmesan.
Asparagus Health Benefits
Asparagus is rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, folic acid, E, K, as well as copper, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc. The vegetable is sometimes promoted as a miracle cancer cure, but while there is little evidence to support this, the vegetable undoubtedly has a number of health benefits and possible cancer inhibitory properties. Its dietary fibre and rich glutathione content, (a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds), may help to inhibit certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers.
Food for thought
In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is the sign of perfection.