Season: Mid-April to the end of June, depending on the weather
I have now almost completely given up making things with asparagus because, apart from the very thin shoots called sprue, which I like to chop and put in Eggs en Cocotte, I think asparagus is best eaten as it is, hot with foaming, melted butter or hollandaise sauce poured over, or warm or cold with a good vinaigrette.
To cook asparagus, take each stalk in both hands and bend and snap off the woody end, then trim the ends with a knife to make them neater. Lay the asparagus stalks on an opened fan steamer (or an ordinary steamer will do) – they can be piled one on top of the other. Then place the steamer in a frying pan or saucepan, pour in about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water from the kettle, then season with salt, put a lid on and steam for 5-6 minutes, or until they feel tender when tested with a skewer.
Serve the asparagus on hot plates with some sauce poured over the tips. Pick them up with your hands and eat down to the tough ends, dipping in the sauce after each bite. Also, don’t forget to have finger bowls and napkins at the ready. 1 lb 4 oz (570 g) of asparagus will serve 4 as a starter.
Sometimes the idea of the simpler the better makes for cooking success and never more so than in this pared-down recipe for asparagus that would make the most brilliant starter or lunch dish.
Steamed asparagus is wrapped with cheese and ham to produce the most wonderful light meal or starter - a great way to enjoy the short asparagus season in May and June.
'A simple but sublime tart' is how Delia describes this lovely tart, which is another mouthwatering way in which to enjoy asparagus, coupled with cream, cheese and eggs. Even the pastry has Cheddar in it for extra flavour!
Make the most of asparagus while it's here - you can even make it into soup, to be served warm or chilled depending on the weather!
Asparagus should be enjoyed as often as possible during its short season and this is one of the finest ways of doing so: a risotto made from asparagus, broad beans, spring onions and chives – a real taste of early summer.