I have seen lots of food blogs showcasing asparagus and thought if I wasn't careful I would miss the moment, and for lovers of asparagus there is even an Asparagus Festival in the Vale of Evesham from Sunday, 27th May to Sunday, 3rd June, 2007.
Nigel Slater in The Kitchen Diaries shares with us the way he likes to eat his spears, with butter not melted, but soft enough to sink a finger in. He eats his spears at home the way he was taught by an asparagus farmer in Evesham. You boil them in deep, salted water till they will bend and are a dull, muted green - 'that way, they have more of a flavour to 'em'. You eat them with nothing but a china plate of brown bread cut as thin as you dare, buttered as if you were plastering a wall.
With the asparagus spears that were left after making the pie, I ate the rest of them the Nigel Slater way!!
My preference is to roast asparagus, none of the flavour is lost into the water that way. Nigel Slater in his book Appetite gives an easy way to roast asparagus - just wrap them in foil with a spoonful of water and a slice of butter tucked inside.
The following recipe is by Antony Worrall Thompson and the tarts were eaten greedily and with much appreciation. The asparagus in the photograph was grown in the Heart of England.
BBC GOODFOOD MAGAZINE -
ANTONY'S WEEKEND COOKBOOK
ISBN 0563493801 - PAGE 126
500g ready-made puff pastry, thawed if frozen. A little plain flour, for dusting. Unsalted butter, for greasing. 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. 1 large onion, thinly sliced. 16 asparagus spears, trimmed. 1 egg, beaten. 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tomato salad, to serve.
1. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board to 0.5 cm thickness. Cut the pastry into four even-sized rectangles, each about 20 x 10 cm and trim down the edges. Arrange on a large greased baking sheet, prick all over with a fork and chill for at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until softened but not coloured, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
3. Blanch the asparagus in a pan of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and refresh quickly under cold running water. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Spread the softened onion over the pastry bases, leaving a 1 cm border around the edges. Arrange the asparagus spears on top to cover the onion completely and brush lightly with the remaining olive oil.
5. Brush the pastry borders with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese over the whole tart. Season to taste and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. Remove the tarts from the oven, transfer to warmed plates and serve hot or warm with the tomato salad, if you like.