I love this time of year. Spring is when the seasons change and our kitchen here at La Becasse, in Ludlow, becomes full of delicious new ingredients. It’s an exciting time. We are always inundated with fresh produce and our guests can enjoy the best of local, seasonal flavour.
One of my favourite ever spring ingredients is asparagus. I believe we should celebrate this amazing ingredient and make the most of it.
When we talk to suppliers, we have a phrase. We ask them to tell us about ingredients that are seasonal, fresh, local and in abundance.
The ‘abundance’ element is important: we should all use stuff that is in plentiful supply because it helps out farmers and growers. I’ve been getting asparagus through since the start of April. Because I’m such a fan, I love to make the most of the growing season. I get the first shoots, grown under polytunnels, and when the season is coming to a close, I stock up.
I believe English asparagus is the best in the world. It’s a relatively small season and we should make the most of it. During the season I always put a dish on the menu where asparagus is the main ingredient.
The dish for this spring features lightly-steamed asparagus with a herb risotto, segments of pink grapefruit and a soft-poached egg in bread-crumbs and deep fried and a pink grapefruit puree made just from the zest of the fruit. It’s delicious.
Egg yolk and asparagus is a classic marriage but the addition of pink grapefruit is my twist. Some people might feel challenged by that, but the acidity of the grapefruit cuts through the richness of the dish and I believe it really works.
We also have an asparagus veloute on the menu, as an appetiser, which is served with shallots, chives, crouton, a truffle cream and wild garlic. It’s a perfect celebration of nice, light spring flavours.
When I get ingredients such as asparagus, I don’t mess around with them too much. I like to let the natural flavours stand out, they can talk for themselves.
We’re fortunate to have great local farmers who supply our kitchens. They are up far earlier in the morning than us, making sure the crops are coming through.
When I first came to Shropshire, about six years ago, I was introduced to purple asparagus, which is hard to find anywhere other than here. It’s pretty unique and it’s an amazing ingredient I’d never seen before. It’s similar to purple sprouting broccoli in that it is purple in its raw state but when it is cooked it goes the most incredible deep green colour. Try and find some and see. Fresh flavour of asparagus springing on to the menu