British Strawberries and Asparagus…..today’s post is a celebration of the new season’s strawberries and asparagus, which are just starting to come into the shops, as well as in allotments and gardens all over the UK. Here I will share recipes for the season, that will hopefully provide some seasonal culinary inspiration for all of your British strawberries and asparagus.
As regular Lavender and Lovage readers know, I am a big fan of all things seasonal, and I look forward to each season with great anticipation, as certain ingredients go out of season, they’re replaced by new ingredients, and so the cyclical flow of life goes on, marked by tradition, feasts and festivals. May is the month of strawberries and asparagus for me; it’s also my birthday month and I often think that I’m blessed to be able to enjoy some of the most exciting of British produce throughout my birthday month. This year, lots of locally grown produce in the UK are late, due to the awful weather, as in The Beast from the East, which we’ve been experiencing; but, just a few days ago, I happened upon some locally produced asparagus and a small punnet of British strawberries, just in time for my birthday weekend.
I happen to think that you cannot beat English strawberries; yes, I’ve enjoyed fragrant and fruity of “gariguette” strawberries whilst in France, and Spanish strawberries are lovely once they are ripened outside of the “poly tunnels”. But, English strawberries cannot be beaten for taste, flavour, aroma and colour – they are the ruby jewels of the soft fruit world, until Scottish raspberries come into season that is. One of my happiest memories are trips to the local “PYO” (pick your own) strawberry fields in North Yorkshire with my daughter. After a long, hot and dusty walk down to the fruit farm, (it was about a 2 mile walk) we were both rewarded by “testing” the small juicy orbs of scarlet, whilst picking enough strawberries for a Wimbledon Centre Court Tea. And the long, weary walk back was only made bearable as thoughts of strawberries and cream served with homemade lemonade we were going to enjoy in the garden when we got home.
I also love baking and cooking with strawberries, and as soon as they are fully in season I always preserve them for the grey winter months ahead, so in the midst of November, we can all enjoy a taste of summer on our toast or crumpets. My own strawberry jam recipe is for a soft set strawberry jam, or rather a strawberry conserve, where most of the fruit remains whole and is suspended in delicious strawberry flavoured jammy syrup. Another favourite way to preserve strawberries is by making a batch of Fresh Strawberry Curd – divine when spread on home-made bread Milk Bread or scones of course. Scones are my favourite vehicles of choice for strawberry jam, and indeed jams of all flavours, colours and hues, and they can be whipped up in less than half an hour, making them the ideal candidate for an impromptu afternoon tea, or a decadent cream tea.
If English strawberries are some of the best in the world, than it goes without saying that British asparagus must be “top drawer” too……our climate (and soil) is perfect for growing both strawberries and asparagus. I prefer the green variety rather than the rather “blowsy” white type, which are loved in France, Germany and the European continent as a whole. As soon as I see bundles of green and delicate spears in the farm shop, there is no stopping me, I HAVE to try some of the first season’s crop, and the cost does not enter into it. My favourite way to eat asparagus is just steamed with Hollandaise sauce, but, I DO love them in tarts, pies and quiches as well. One of my most popular recipes is for a very delectable Two Cheese and Asparagus Tart, and I’m constantly asked to make this when asparagus is in season.
Asparagus has a wonderful affinity with fish and seafood, and a fabulous way to show case fresh British asparagus for a spring dinner party is to make a Hot Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Terrine – perfect for an “al fresco” light luncheon or a starter. However, my recipe for May is for a rather “hot-blooded” Latin style recipe, perfect for larger spears of asparagus and amazing when served with omelettes or other egg dishes – Smoky Chargrilled Asparagus with Parmesan – the asparagus spears are “chargrilled” in a griddle pan with a good dousing of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar (by way of a “hot” dressing), they are then served with a liberal sprinkling of Pimenton (smoked paprika) and some shavings of Parmesan cheese for a “gutsy” Spanish style meal but WITH British green asparagus. I hope that you enjoy this recipe if you try it, and for more asparagus and strawberry recipes try some of my recipes here: Lavender and Lovage Spring Recipes.