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Ingredient of the week: Asparagus

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27 MAY 2009

These long, slender green stems flecked with purple are in season the end up April until June. The first of the tender spears appear at the end of April, and the ones grown on our fair shores are hailed by many as the the best in the world.

To find the perfect point at which the tender stem must be separated from the woody part, simply hold the spear at either end and bend – it will snap where it needs to.

A soft boiled egg with steamed asparagus to dip makes a perfect lunch or breakfast. Some extra decadence can be had by wrapping these cooked green stems in a dry-cured ham to give some salt and tang to the mix.

Turn this into a dinner party starter by poaching eggs instead of boiling, just tearing them open slightly over the spears to form a luxurious sauce before scattering with sea salt flakes and black pepper.

Asparagus has long been a friend of the home cook. A recipe appears in the earliest surviving cookbook, Apicius’s 3rd Century De Re Coquinaria. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all cultivated the plant, and loved it so much they even dried it for use in winter.

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