I love this time of year. There’s such a sense of expectancy. Plants are growing (let’s just ignore the weeds) and the prospect of fresh local vegetables beckons. I’m particularly enjoying eating artichokes and asparagus. Discover how to eat artichokes and asparagus with my easy tips.
Artichoke, asparagus and fresh garlic from the garden
I have three globe artichoke plants. One of these is threatening to take over the vegetable plot, it is simply enormous! It is silver grey, spiky leaved and topped with thistle like ‘flowers’.
We cut them with a good few centimetres of stem, wash thoroughly and cook them in a pressure cooker for about 7 minutes (you can boil them if you don’t have a pressure cooker). Then pull the leaves off in turn, dip the bottoms into garlic butter and suck the flesh off. Stop peeling off the leaves when you reach the choke in the middle. This hairy centre should be avoided it is not called choke for nothing!
How to prepare artichokes
Alternatively, when cooked, cut in half and remove the choke. Cut the leaves off to leave a flat platform – the heart of the artichoke. Chop this and the stem – trust me this is edible too. The flavour is rich and delicious a real seasonal treat. Add to salads (such as the recipe below), risottos or omelettes.
- Classical cooking dictates you should trim the leaves down by half. There’s no need to do this at home
- To make garlic butter, smash a clove of garlic or grate finely. Add to 50gr slightly softened butter then add salt or pepper to taste
- Try Belazu Truffle and Artichoke pesto. It is light, delicate and very decadent.
- Look out for artichokes at your local farmers’ market or at a supermarket.
Unbelievably, although it is the heart of the asparagus season, some shops are selling asparagus from Peru! Do make sure the bunch you buy is local, not just packed locally.
Although the season is longer than it used to be, it is in its prime for 6 weeks from the 23rd April. Check over the bunch of asparagus before you buy. The spears should be roughly similar in size and not floppy.
I think asparagus is best served simply. To prepare, wash and snap the spears. Hold in two hands and push, it will break where the woodier part begins. Don’t discard the woodier pieces, use them for stock. The delicate spears need no more than 5 minutes cooking in boiling water. Keep an eye on them and stop cooking as they turn a darker colour.
- Chefs will peel the spears but there’s no need to do so at home!
- As soon as you can after you’ve bought your asparagus, cut a small amount off the ends and place in a vase of water. It keeps much better that way.
Fresh Asparagus Salad Recipe
This is an easy salad that goes well with fish, charcuterie or cheese. Raw asparagus spears feature. Trust me they are delicious! This salad recipe is suitable for vegans and vegetarians and all who like tasty food!
Fresh Asparagus Salad
- 200 gr peppers any size or shape
- 1/2 bunch asparagus About 6 spears
- 150 gr tomatoes the tastiest you can find
- 100 gr mixed herbs (eg coriander, parsley, chives, basil) Use what you have available
- 1/2 pomegranate optional
- 1-2 tbs olive oil or rapeseed oil
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 200C, Gas 6 Cut the pepper into slices about 1 cm thick and place in pan to roast. Sprinkle over 1 tablespoon oil and mix well. Bake until soft - about 20 minutes. Set aside
- Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
- Finely chop the herbs and set aside
- If you have cherry tomatoes, cut in half. Otherwise cut into pieces no larger than 2 cm.
- Snap the asparagus and set aside the woody part. Slice the asparagus spears thinly, diagonally.
- If you are using a pomegranate, remove the pith surrounding the seeds and set seeds aside.
- Now assemble the salad. When the peppers are still warm, mix in the herbs and pomegranate seeds if using. There should still be some oil remaining in the pan which will help form your dressing. Add the lemon juice and mix. Taste and add salt and pepper and more oil and lemon if required. Finally fold in the asparagus and tomatoes and serve.
- If you make this in advance, bring to room temperature before serving.
Check out my post on asparagus with another recipe.