Serrano wrapped Asparagus
Baby Gem Lettuce, Bronze Fennel, Aioli, Chives and
British asparagus, a seasonal gem and a culinary treat that I look forward to with anticipation. In my part of the world, namely North Yorkshire, we have numerous asparagus farms, so being able to source locally is not an issue, and as the season gathers momentum the prices come down so it’s almost affordable to have asparagus with every meal. When I am in France, I miss the wonderful green asparagus of the British Isles – they favour white asparagus over there, as do the Germans, and nice though it is, it just doesn’t have that vibrant asparagus “ooomph” that I love so much in our green home-grown version.
So, when a parcel of beautifully wrapped British asparagus arrived on my doorstep recently, I was delighted with my surprise vegetable booty. I received four generous bundles, all tied up in a pretty green ribbon proclaiming that these elegant spears had been “grown with love”……they arrived fresh and perky, just waiting to be steamed and anointed with butter no doubt, although I had a few other ideas about how to cook them. I do love a plain and unadulterated plate of steamed asparagus – ready for dunking in iron-rich golden egg yolks as well as dipping with gay abandon in melted butter or Hollandaise sauce, but, I also love ham and griddled asparagus too.
Today’s recipe that I created especially for my new arrival of British asparagus, is a bit posh; the bright green spears are wrapped in Serrano ham before being baked in the oven until the ham is crispy and the asparagus is just tender. It’s an easy way to cook them and is perfect dinner party material, in the culinary sense. Once cooked, the hammy spears are then laid with care on to a bed of baby gem lettuce leaves with a goodly scattering fresh goat’s cheese, before being garnished with a chopped bronze fennel. Chopped fresh chives is the final flourish as well as a big dollop of aioli for greedy dipping and dunking.
The salty ham and cheese adds a richness to the dish, whilst the lettuce leaves and herbs bring more “green” and freshness the plate……however, the asparagus still remains the main protagonist in this culinary drama and the aioli is just plain naughtiness, but so very essential. Serve this attractive plate with home-made bread for a dinner party starter, or just share it between two for a decadent luncheon dish, with chilled white wine. You can get ahead by wrapping the asparagus beforehand and popping them in the fridge until needed. The other components can be washed, chopped and weighed etc, and then it’s just a small matter of baking the asparagus and assembling the recipe just before serving.
Serve six spears per person for a light lunch, and three as a starter; you can also grill them, as opposed to baking them, but I find it easy to put them into the oven whilst I am doing other things. If like me you are a big asparagus aficionado, then I have good news! There is an annual British Asparagus Festival every year, where all things asparagus are venerated and celebrated. The festival runs for the complete asparagus season, which is between the 23rd April and the 21st June this year, 2015. There is music, morris dancing, an asparagus fun run, cookery demonstrations, farm visits and even writing competitions..…..and much asparagus consumption one assumes too.
If you can’t get to the festival, never mind, I have shared my recipe for Serrano wrapped Asparagus with Baby Gem Lettuce, Bronze Fennel, Aioli, Chives and Goat’s Cheese below, and I hope you are inspired enough to make it this asparagus season. With thanks to British Asparagus for sending me these plump bundles of greenness – I have created a couple more recipes for the season, so do call back to see that I’ve made. Karen
Read all about Asparagus’s heath benefits here:
If that wasn’t enough, eaten regularly, asparagus packs an almighty punch to diseases such as cancer and heart disease as well as boosting your immune system.