Top tips

Asparagus – food of the Gods and health-giving too! Who knew something that tastes so good could also be immensely healthy? TV chef Marcus Bean offers his top tips for the pick of the forthcoming season

It’s like Christmas day when the first asparagus arrives in the kitchen; it’s seasonal, fresh and tastes fantastic, and as a country we don’t export any of it, we keep it all for ourselves – that shows how good it really is! For the few months that asparagus is available it never leaves my menu, and why should it?
It works brilliantly in many of our favourite dishes, from breakfast through to dinner. There is so much you can do with it and it’s quick and simple. British asparagus is the best in the world. To be sure you’re getting the best of the best, check out the colour – the freshest is a vibrant green. The heads are also important – make sure they’re nice and tight. And look for a clean ’snap’ when breaking the root, which proves just how fresh it is.
My all-time favourite way with asparagus is char-grilled. Whether on the BBQ or under the kitchen grill, I love the smoky flavour and great bite. It’s so easy – just a bit of butter and a sprinkle of salt and it’s perfect.

Marcus Bean’s Beef and asparagus salad

Serves 2

1 x 225g ribeye steak
100g fresh watercress or baby leaf salad
6 radishes
10 cherry tomatoes
8 stems asparagus (hard root removed)
for the honey dressing:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil or pomace oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper

Heat a chargrill pan until hot. Add a little oil and asparagus and cook until just tender, set aside. Season steak, cook in the pan for 2-3 mins on each side (medium) and allow to rest in a warm place for 5 minutes before serving.
Make your dressing by whisking all the ingredients together, season to taste. Thinly slice radishes then put in a bowl with watercress or leaf. Add halved tomatoes, drizzle dressing over and toss to mix together.
To serve, place half the salad on each plate and top with sliced ribeye.

Marcus Bean’s Char grilled asparagus

Serves 2

10 stems asparagus
2 free-range hens’ eggs
For the hollandaise:
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
250g unsalted butter, melted
2 free-range egg yolks
pinch salt
250ml white wine vinegar
1 sprig tarragon
1 small shallot, diced

Heat griddle pan, trim asparagus, drizzle with oil and char on all sides. For the hollandaise – add vinegar to a small pan with shallot and tarragon, bring to boil and reduce by half. Allow to cool. Put two egg yolks in a bowl with a tsp of the vinegar reduction and a pinch of salt. While whisking constantly, slowly add melted butter (pour slowly, leaving the butter fat at the bottom of the melted butter), then add tarragon and season to taste. Set aside until required.
Poach the eggs, then place asparagus on the plate topped with poached egg, and hollandaise. To be a bit more healthy and cut the fat, cut the hollandaise (shame!).

Marcus’ perfect hollandaise
• Use really fresh, free-range eggs – the fresher the egg, the better the ingredients bind and the sauce is less likely to split. Fresh, free range eggs also make for a creamier, richer hollandaise.
• Season the sauce really well to bring out the flavour. I like to incorporate tarragon but there are loads of different flavours you can try – from a splash of orange juice to chopped spinach.
• If it starts to split while you’re whisking, add a little warm water (about a teaspoon) and it should help to bring it back together.

Marcus Bean’s Asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon with scrambled egg

Serves 2

10 stems asparagus
4-6 slices smoked salmon
3 free-range eggs
salt & pepper

Steam the asparagus or cook it in a hot chargrill pan. Once cooked, wrap the two lots of five stems with 2-3 slices each of smoked salmon.
Break three eggs into a small non-stick pan, add a little salt and pepper then whisk together with a fork until mixed. Then cook on a medium to high heat, making sure you continually stir with a rubber spatula, making sure you scrape all the edges to allow it to cook quicker. Once it’s about half way cooked remove from heat and continue stirring (it will continue to cook from the heat of the pan).
As soon as the egg is cooked, remove from the pan and serve immediately with the smoked salmon-wrapped asparagus.

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