ts May! My favourite month. Not just because its my birthday month but because summer is around the corner and we occasionally get some warm sunny days that are by now longer and greener. Also, its not quite summer yet so any warmth is a bonus and any rain can’t be really argued about….rain in July however….that can be, thats not on.
In addition, asparagus season kicks off! One of my favourite vegetables and one that I adore but religiously only use in season. Peruvian flown asparagus in November isn’t quite the same. My patient (and I mean patient) Dad has slaved over a beautiful allotment for a good few years now and asparagus has to be one of the benefits of these hours. Its a funny vegetable to grow really. Its painfully teasing in its initial stages, taking 3 years to form solid allotment foundations. It needs to grow and die again before you can even reap the benefits of your first harvest – 3 years! So it was on day one, year one when Dad announced he was to plant some that we all cheered then sat back in asaparugus-less silence as we waited. But wait we did and now we have a wonderful patch of these cheeky greens. I say funny as while it takes years to establish, when the season hits, asparagus shoots up and grows in lightening speed. It has been known to grow up to 25cm in 24hours! So we can hardly cut it quick enough. While the weather wasn’t ideal for a BBQ this weekend for Dad’s birthday that didn’t stop us from having my (oven grilled) spatchcocked BBQ chicken and this wonderful salad filled with all my Dad’s favourite salad staples and his well deserved asparagus served alongside crispy roasted new potatoes
This is more of an assembly of elements which are open to modification.
Crispy fried croutons, boiled eggs, smoky bacon lardons, stir fired spiced broccoli, crunchy bitter little gems and of course this seasons asparagus….
- 2 little gem lettuces
- 1 large head broccoli, chopped into florets and halved if necessary
- Large bunch asparagus (about 8 stems)
- 2 free range eggs
- 3 slices brown bread, chopped into 2 cm pieces
- 100g pancetta/diced smoked bacon/smoked lardons (optional)
- Juice 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp each fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed, coriander seed.
- Sunflower oil for frying
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Toast the spices in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until fragrant then tip into a pestle and mortar and grind. Set aside
- Asparagus – Snap the asparagus where it naturally breaks so you can discard the woody end. Chop the spear ends into half finger length pieces. Blanche these in simmering water for just 2 minutes until just cooked but al dente and drain immediately. Cool under cold water to retain the green colour then allow to cool and dry.
- Eggs – Simmer the eggs in boiling water for about 8 minutes depending on their size. Aim for a hard boiled consistency but not overdone. Reduce the time a little if you like them runnier. Drain and cool in cold water. Peel and discard the shell and chop each egg into 8 pieces. Season with a little black pepper.
- Salad – Snap the outer leaves of the little gems into a large salad serving bowl and chop the hearts into pieces. Add the cooled and dried asparagus.
- Croutons – Heat a thin layer of oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat. When hot, add the bread cubes and some salt and pepper and fry until you have golden and crispy croutons. Drain on kitchen towel and set aside.
- Bacon – Add a little more oil to the pan if needed and fry off the bacon pieces until crispy and golden. Drain on kitchen paper then add to the croutons and set aside.
- Broccoli – Do this step last so the florets are still a little warm when added to the salad. Either get a clean pan or wipe out the last of the bacon juices and heat a tbsp of olive oil. Add the broccoli florets and season and fry until beginning to char and turn cripsy in places and the stems start to soften. They will have a nice al dente bite to them. As they begin to stir fry and soften, add the crushed spices and fry for a further minute.
- Serve – When ready to serve, add the stir fried broccoli to the salad and asparagus and toss well. Add the croutons and bacon and toss again.
- Squeeze over the juice of the lemon and a good drizzle of some good quality extra virgin olive oil and toss to combine.
- Finally carefully place the eggs on top!