A Spring Bounty – British Strawberries and Asparagus

Posted in All posts, May, on

I am a big fan of all things seasonal – I look forward to each season with great anticipation...as some produce goes out of season it is replaced by new produce, and so the cyclical flow of life goes on marked by tradition, feasts and festivals, as well as locally produced seasonal ingredients.

May is the month of strawberries and asparagus for me; it’s also my birthday month and I often think that I am indeed blessed to be able to enjoy some of the most exciting of British produce throughout my birthday month. This year they are late, due to the awful (unseasonal) weather we have been experiencing, and that rather threw me when I came to write my article for May, as there was a distinct lack of British strawberries and asparagus around; but, just a few days ago, I happened upon some locally produced asparagus and a small punnet of British strawberries too!

I happen to think that you cannot beat English strawberries; yes, I have had the most fragrant and fruity of “gariguette” strawberries when in France, and Spanish strawberries are lovely once they are ripened out of the “poly tunnels”. But, English strawberries cannot be beaten for taste, flavour, aroma and colour – they are the ruby jewels of the soft fruit world, until Scottish raspberries come into season that is!

Any of my happiest memories are of trips to the local “PYO” (pick your own) strawberry fields in North Yorkshire with my daughter. A long, hot and dusty walk down there (it was about a 2 mile walk) was rewarded by “testing” the small juicy orbs of scarlet, whilst picking enough strawberries for a Wimbledon Centre Court Tea! And the long, weary walk back was only made bearable as thoughts of strawberry cream tea and lemonade danced through our heads.

I love baking and cooking with strawberries, and once they are fully in season, I always preserve some for the grey winter months – so in the midst of November, we can all enjoy a taste of summer on our toast or crumpets. My own strawberry jam recipe is for a soft set strawberry jam, or rather a strawberry conserve, where most of the fruit remains whole and is suspended in delicious strawberry flavoured jammy syrup. Sarah Raven also has a lovely French style recipe, French strawberry jam, which she says is “An excellent jam that is not too sweet and not too set, perfect with scones and cream”. Another favourite way to preserve strawberries is by making a batch of Fresh Strawberry Curd – divine when spread on home-made bread Milk Bread or scones of course...

If English strawberries are some of the best in the world, than it goes without saying that British asparagus must be “top drawer” too……our climate is perfect for growing asparagus and I also prefer the green variety rather than the rather “blousy” white type that is loved in France, Germany and the European continent as a whole.

As soon as I see bundles of green and delicate spears in the farm shop, there is no stopping me, I HAVE to try some of the first season’s crop, and the cost does not enter into it. My favourite way to eat asparagus is just steamed with Hollandaise sauce, but, I DO love it in tarts, pies and quiches as well. One of my most recent recipe successes is a new creation for a Two Cheese and Asparagus Tart, and I have been asked to make this several times since I first made it a few weeks ago.

Asparagus has a wonderful affinity with fish and seafood, and a fabulous way to show case fresh British asparagus for a spring dinner party is to make a Hot Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Terrine – perfect for an “al fresco” luncheon or a starter. However, my recipe for May is for a rather “hot-blooded” Latin style recipe, perfect for larger spears of asparagus and amazing when served with omelettes or other egg dishes – Smoky Chargrilled Asparagus with Parmesan – the asparagus spears are “chargrilled” in a griddle pan with a good dousing of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar (by way of a “hot” dressing) and then they are served with a liberal sprinkling of Pimenton (smoked paprika) and some shavings of Parmesan cheese for a “gutsy” Spanish style meal but WITH British green asparagus.

(click to enlarge, right click to Save)

I hope that you enjoy this recipe if you try it, and for more asparagus and strawberry recipes visit Sarah Raven’s Seasonal Recipes, or try some of mine here: Lavender and Lovage Spring Recipes.

I will be back next month with some Bountiful Berries and Old-Fashioned Baking Secrets, see you then and do leave a comment if you have enjoyed reading this!

Thanks for reading,