A love for English asparagus was forced upon me from a young age. As Dad’s hands-down favourite food, the coming of the asparagus season has always been celebrated in the family – primarily by excessive asparagus consumption and repetitive lectures on its greatness. We spend a lot of time in Norfolk, known for the quality of its asparagus fields, and growing up we’d come back to London from spring weekends on the coast with more asparagus bundles than the fridge’s vegetable drawer could hold.
Happy to eat a McDonald’s Big Mac to line his stomach before a client barbecue, and known to drink Lambrini from an empty Häagen-Dazs tub (because god forbid drinking from the bottle), asparagus is the one food that Dad is an unashamed snob about. If it isn’t in-season, Norfolk asparagus, then it’s an offence to eat it. Therefore, in that short eight-week season it must be consumed at every possible opportunity. The Norfolk fields must be purged of every last spear.
As much as my siblings and I mock him for it, the yearly binge has led to a deep respect for the veg. I’ve rebelled, and bought it out of season (most often imported from Peru), only to learn the hard way that Dad knows best. When I spotted the first Norfolk asparagus of the season being sold at West Hampstead farmers’ market this weekend, then, I felt something akin to dad’s yearly excitement. I spotted the 2 for £5 deal, grabbed the cash from my purse and –– had to stop myself just at the point of purchase with the realisation that, until next week, one huge bundle would probably do.
Growing up, the spears were never cooked any other way than steamed or boiled – a crunchy and delicious al dente, served up with lashings of butter. So much butter, in fact, that my siblings and I have always questioned whether it’s the asparagus that our Dad loves, or the excuse it brings to consume excessive amounts of his favourite fat.
For it’s indulgent use of butter, then, I’ll dedicate this recipe to Ricky Light. It works well as a light lunch, or serve it up as an impressive but easy starter at a dinner party. Enjoy!
Prep: 5 mins Cook: 10 mins
Ingredients (serves two as a light lunch)
- 16 stems of asparagus (about one medium/large bunch)
- 2 large free-range eggs
- 50g salted butter
- 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 40g flaked almonds
- 1 tsp. sumac, to serve
- In a frying pan, lightly toast the almonds over a medium/high heat. They’ll turn quickly, so keep an eye on them. Once they’ve gone a light, golden brown, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Place the eggs in a pan of boiling water and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and cover the eggs with cold water.
- Whilst the eggs are cooking, prep the asparagus. The best way to trim the tough ends is by snapping with your hands rather than chopping – they’ll snap at the point they become tough, so by chopping you may be wasting more of the spear than necessary.
- Place the asparagus in a pan of boiling water and cook for 2 minutes (if you want the spears to retain some bite). Drain.
- Meanwhile, melt your butter in a pan, squeeze in the juice of the lemon and stir in the toasted almonds.
- Peel the egg and cut it in half, being careful not to lose any of the runny yolk to your chopping board.
- Assemble the dish, asparagus first, followed by the egg and then the almond butter drizzled generously over the top. Finish with a sprinkling of sumac.