The arrival of the first batch of asparagus excites me. I have been patiently waiting for them since last summer. And I'm not talking about those inferior imported varieties that you get down the local supermarket. These are the true glorious English asparagus, sweet and full of flavours, and the only asparagus you should ever really be bother with.
In the weeks leading up to the harvest of these spears of life, I have been tweeting my disappointment of not being able to spot them in numerous farmers market. This unfortunate delays caused by the sudden arctic weather of recent weeks has made me yearned for this even more. I've even tweeted to the British asparagus to query about the due date. Yes, that's how crazily in love I am with this Brit Spears. Hit me baby one more time!
The first few batches of these shoots are the best and I like to treat them with minimum fuss and let the flavours speaks for itself. Due to the Chinese heritage in me, I'm a firm believer of steaming your veg and never to boil them, especially for delicate greens like this. Boiling them in water is sacrilegious as it will mean losing some of their sweetness to the water and unless you are planning to use them as stock, I would strongly advise to use the steaming method instead. This will not only cook the asparagus gently but also retain all of it's flavours.
This is a very simple salad and it makes the best of spring flavours. It is clean tasting, refreshing and uncomplicated. The preparation takes no time at all and sometime, this is the best kind of food. When the sun is out and all you want to do is to sit out in the garden rather than slaving over a hot stove. I have deliberately left out any salt and pepper as the dressing is salty enough and I didn't want the harshness of the pepper to interfere with the overall freshness of the salad but you can use it by all means.
This makes a great side dish so feel free to serve it alongside some beautifully fresh pan-fried fish or at a BBQ. I like to eat it as it is to truly savour the full-flavoured new season asparagus.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
1 bunch of asparagus (about 10-12 spears), snap off the tough woody ends and cut into thirds on the diagonal
1 whole cucumber
1 large red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
a small handful of fresh mint, leaves picked
a large handful of fresh coriander, leaves picked
For the dressing:
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp caster sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 small red chilled. deseeded and finely chopped
Place all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Mix to combine and set aside.
Prepare a steamer and steam the asparagus for 3-4 minutes, until tender and cooked. Tip the asparagus into a bowl of ice water or alternatively, rinse under running cold water to stop any further cooking.
Shave the cucumber into thin long strips using a vegetable peeler. Avoid the mushy core and discard this. You don't really want a wet salad!
In a large bowl, place the asparagus, cucumber, chilli, mint, coriander and half of the dressing. Toss well to combine before plating them onto separate dish. Drizzle with more dressing and serve.