Whatever else is happening, let’s not forget that now is in fact the most wonderful time of year: English asparagus season. A fleeting window in the harvest calendar that deserves to be savoured and devoured.

We’re particularly giddy about it this year as we’ve just harvested our very first crop, after years of careful cultivation. A little wonky but hard earned, with asparagus being the definition of slow food. It takes three years (and a lot of patience) to cultivate before you can harvest, and more still for the plants to become mature and vigorous enough for a generously sized crop. Each spear is then harvested by hand. Luckily, cooking takes no time at all.

The asparagus beds are tended by Will, one of our top vegetable growers, who has carefully selected the varieties grown:

“To extend our picking season as much as possible, we’re growing two early varieties – Mondeo and Pacific Purple – and two late varieties – Guelph Millennium and Stewarts Purple. This year they’ll provide around 5 weeks of picking, but from next year we hope to get that up to 8 weeks.”

One of the best ways to enjoy asparagus is with a perfectly poached egg; but head chef Alan Stewart has created an anglicised version of this classic French combo:

“I believe ingredients that grow together, go together. Asparagus and sunflowers make good bedfellows in the vegetable bed and on your plate, as with this light lunch dish.”

Asparagus & Coddled Egg (Serves 4)

  • 24 x medium asparagus spears, ends removed
  • Handful fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
  • Handful sunflower seeds, toasted & chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Cider vinegar
  • Maldon sea salt
  • 2 x free-range eggs
  • 1 x shallot, finely diced
  • 1stp English mustard
  • 1tbsp cider vinegar
  • 200ml sunflower (or olive) oil
  • 50g sunflower seeds, chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped

Method:

Place the eggs in a pan of boiling water.

Boil one egg for 4 mins, then remove and chill in iced water.

Boil the second egg for 8 more mins (12 in total), then remove and leave to chill.

Peel the 4-minute egg. Place in a jug with the English mustard and cider vinegar, then blend to a paste.

Slowly add the sunflower oil to make a thick sauce with a mayonnaise consistency.

Peel and chop the 12-minute egg. Add to the sauce along with the shallot, tarragon and chopped sunflower seeds. Season to taste.

Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water for 3 ½ mins, then remove and dress in a little cyder vinegar, olive oil and salt.

Plate 6 asparagus spears per person and dress with sunflower seeds and tarragon leaves. Serve with a large spoonful of coddled egg dressing, and a good crack of fresh black pepper.