Every year around the month of May in Kent, dozens of hand-made signs spring up on country lanes, main roads, at junctions and farms, proclaiming the Asparagus season has arrived.
I love the delicate, fragrant, tender stalks of luxury and always wait eagerly for the opportunity to buy bunches which are freshly picked and locally grown. We do our best to resist any temptation to buy foreign imports and although the English season is very short, we think it is worth holding on for the superior taste of our English crop. It also helps to support our local farmers.
Asparagus always strikes me as a very English vegetable, although originally is appears to have been grown in southern Europe and beyond. It is prized for its delicate taste, but it is also low in calories, has plenty of fibre and is packed full of vitamins and minerals. In the UK, it even demands its very own festival!
This year due to the cold weather and lateness of Spring, the Asparagus has been delayed and sadly, seems much diminished. The local producers have been struggling for the loss of their prized crop, which makes it even more important to support them ……. and I intend to munch as much as I can over the next month or so……….
A different, but still very English product is Stilton. – A traditional blue cheese made in the UK since the 18th Century. Often snapped up by visiting tourists as a taste of England to take home with them, it is known for its distinctive strong smell and taste. It has a slightly knobbly, creamy texture and a musty, deep flavour which sits beautifully against the subtly sweet, slightly firm bite of tender Asparagus tips.
You can combine the two by simply baking Asparagus (brushed with olive oil) sprinkled with Stilton in the oven. And in quiche, when mixed together, they add an alternative dimension of seasonal luxury for a delicious late spring lunch.
Pastry Base – Follow recipe for Rice & Almond Shortcrust Pastry from previous post via this link.
Asparagus & Stilton Filling
130g Stilton cheese (if you do not have Stilton, then use an alternative strong blue cheese)
200g Asparagus tips
a drizzle of olive oil
250ml double cream
3 large eggs
salt & pepper to season
- Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰ C / 350⁰ F / Gas 4.
- Crumble the blue cheese into small pieces and set aside.
- Cut the Asparagus tips into lengths of about 2 centimetres (stalks only), and leave the flowery tips whole. Reserve 2-3 full length tips to decorate the top of the quiche.
- Put a little drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan and gently sauté the cut Asparagus over a high heat for a couple of minutes to seal in the flavour and soften slightly.
- When this process is complete, remove from the pan and set aside and do the same with the reserved whole Asparagus tips.
- Beat the eggs, cream, milk and seasoning together in a bowl until well combined, light and airy.
- When your pastry cases are cooked and ready, sprinkle the blue cheese and cut Asparagus pieces evenly over the base.
- Ensure your pastry base and tin are placed on a separate baking tray (in case of any leaks during cooking) and pour the egg-cream mixture over the top until the case is almost full.
- Decorate by placing the remaining full Asparagus tips across the top and bake in the oven immediately for about 30 minutes until the top is set and there is no ‘wobble’ to the wet mixture.
- Eat hot, warm or cool and take on a picnic…..
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