In season: Asparagus
It’s asparagus season – one of the delicacies of the vegetable world, asparagus lovers have a very short season to enjoy this perfect vegetable. Labour-intensive to grow, asparagus are actually the young shoots of a cultivated lily plant…
So what do you need to know?
1. Loaded with nutrients: asparagus is a very good source of fibre, folic acid, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells.
2. If you suffer from fluid retention, then learn to love asparagus. It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from oedema and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.
3. It’s got phytonutrients called saponins. Saponins in food have repeatedly been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, and their intake has also been associated with improved blood pressure, improved blood sugar regulation, and better control of blood fat levels.
4. If you’ve ever noticed a strange, not-entirely-pleasant scent coming from your urine after you eat asparagus, you’re definitely not alone. No need to panic though, it’s caused by asparagusic acid and is completely harmless.
Need some inspiration? Both these recipes will work great with a BBQ and take minimal amounts of time to prepare. Let’s face it, no-one wants to be slaving away in the kitchen when the sun is out!
Yes, Gordon Ramsay can do simple. This reciple takes about 10 minutes to prepare!
Cos, asparagus & red onion salad
300g asparagus spears
1 large or 2 medium Cos lettuce
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3-4 tbsp vinaigrette, preferably homemade
Peel the asparagus bases with a swivel peeler and trim the woody ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 1½-2 mins until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water.
Trim the base of the lettuce leaves and arrange on a large shallow bowl or platter. Scatter over the asparagus spears and red onion, season well and drizzle with vinaigrette just before serving.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s a pretty strong champion of all things vegetable. This recipe is from his book Hugh’s Three Good Things, published by Bloomsbury.
Asparagus, New Potatoes and Halloumi
600 – 700g new potatoes, scrubbed or scraped
4 – 5 garlic cloves (unpeeled), bashed
3 tablespoons olive oil
About 400g asparagus
A spritz of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 – 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley to finish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Cut the potatoes into similarsized, small chunks. Put them in a large roasting tray with the garlic, add the olive oil and some salt and pepper and toss well. Roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, snap the woody ends from the asparagus and cut the spears into 3–4cm lengths. Cut the halloumi into 2cm cubes.
Take the potatoes from the oven, add the asparagus and halloumi and toss to combine. You don’t want the tray to be too crowded – everything should be in a single layer. Return the tray to the oven for 15 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the cheese is starting to caramelise. Discard the garlic.
Add a generous spritz of lemon juice and toss everything again, then transfer to a serving dish. Scatter with parsley, if using, and some more black pepper. Serve straight away – with wedges of sourdough bread, if you really want to make a meal of it.