At long last Spring appears to have sprung. A sure sign of this is the appearance in the shops of British Asparagus. It seems to have been late in coming this year but is always worth the wait. Although the official season is from April 23rd (St George's Day) to June 21st, it's only in the last few days that I've spotted any in the shops which ties in with tweet below. Do make sure to read the label carefully when you are out shopping to make sure it really is British that you are buying.
Update from the field: the British season is in full swing from this weekend so make sure you are picking up Brit spears when shopping!— British Asparagus (@BritAsparagus) 13 May 2016
In the quick and simple recipe I'm sharing today the Asparagus is showcased so that its flavour really shines. Using Orzo rather than arborio rice simplifys the whole risotto making process. I've used a mix of the larger Asparagus through the orzotto and some of the finer tips griddled and served on top. The mint, lemon and black pepper only serve to enhance the superb Asparagus flavours.
I don't know about you but over the years goodness knows how many packets of cut herbs and pots of growing herbs I've ended up buying and binning. What usually happens is that half a pack gets used and the remainder goes slimy in the bottom of my fridge. If I try to economise by buying a potted herb I then end up killing it by over or under watering. Cole and Mason asked me if I'd like to try out a Self-Watering Single Potted Herb Keeper from their new range. It promised to give longer life to fresh herbs and I've been seriously impressed with its performance. Not only has my mint flourished like a triffid it also looks much more stylish in my kitchen than a black plastic pot sat on a chipped saucer. No need to re-pot, simply sit your round or square potted herb in the Herb Keeper, fill the base section with water via the spout and a hydro felt pad draws up exactly the amount of water that your herb needs to absorb. It works a treat and there's also a version for Fresh Cut Herbs. I've also been using a set of their Precision Mills which have an easily adjustable courseness level. There are three settings for the salt and five for pepper so you get the perfect grind for you needs to take you from hob to table. Herbs, Spices and Asparagus ready - time to get cooking!
Orzo Risotto with Mint & British Asparagus
1 Tbsp Rapeseed Oil
1 Echalion Shallot, finely chopped
750ml Vegatable Stock
250g British Asparagus
75g Frozen Petit Pois
100g British Asparagus Fine Tips
2 Tbsp Fresh Mint, chopped
50g Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative) grated, plus extra to serve
Freshly ground Salt & Pepper
1/2 Lemon, juice and zest
Fry the finely chopped shallot in a large satue/frying pan along with the rapeseed oil until translucent.
Add the orzo and vegetable stock, bring to the boil then turn down to a gentle simmer for 7 minutes.
Check and stir regularly to ensure it doesn't stick and add more boiling water from the kettle if required.
Meanwhile chop the stalks of the larger Asparagus into discs, leaving the tips whole. Prepare the mint, Parmesan and and lemon and set aside.
Add the frozen peas and the chopped Asparagus to the Orzo and cook for a further 7 minutes until the pasta is soft and starchy, all the water absorbed but there is still a bite to the asparagus.
Meanwhile brush the fine Asparagus Tips with some rapeseed oil and cook on a griddle pan until lighly charred.
Add the chopped mint, grated Parmesan, lemon juice and rind to the Orzo. Mix well and season with freshly ground salt and black pepper.
Serve topped with the griddled Asparagus tips and extra Parmesan and Black Pepper.
For further British Asparagus inspiration check out the fab recipes below from some of my food blogging colleagues
Disclosure : This is a commissioned recipe for Cole & Mason. All views expressed are my own.