The first of the English asparagus will be appearing at the end of April. The British asparagus season, which lasts just eight weeks, really gets going in May and is finished by the end of June, although fresh asparagus is available all year round from places as far away as Spain and Peru.
The Vale of Evesham is the traditional home of asparagus and hosts a festival towards the end of May. Although it is often served with just melted butter or hollandaise sauce as an accompaniment, it can be used in baking. It is particularly good in flans or quiches and mixes well with goat’s cheese and salmon.
Trim and cook the asparagus in boiling water for a few minutes until tender before using. It can be mixed with cooked leeks, bound with a mild cheese sauce and wrapped in either shortcrust or puff pastry to make a vegetarian pasty.
Asparagus is also good roasted, so roll out puff pastry and prick the base with a fork leaving a border all the way around. Cover the pastry with cooked sliced onions and place the trimmed raw asparagus on top. Brush with olive oil, scatter over chunks of feta cheese and bake until cooked and golden brown.
* Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leith’s Baking Bible, from the world-famous Leiths School of Food and Wine