In these thrilling early days of abundance, it's hard to beat simple recipes that get the spears from pan to mouth as soon as possible – there's chance enough for more complex tarts, soups and risotto with older, woodier stalks later. This one, which makes a lovely light lunch, or a starter for a spring dinner party, is one step up from dipping them in melted butter, pairing the sweetness of brown shrimp with the green snap of the vegetable, and just a hint of sweet spice. It's almost like potted shrimp in liquid form, and best served with extra bread to mop up any extra (I cannot bring myself to say excess) butter.
Though asparagus is often claimed to be a hard thing to match with wine, in fact as long as you steer clear of anything too heavy, or oaky, it's really not too problematic: think instead of the clean, crisp, light whites of the kind you're probably yearning for after the long winter in any case. A zingy English example, to match with the English asparagus and shrimps, is a great choice. Eat al fresco, if you dare, and dream of warmer days to come.
Warm salad of asparagus and brown shrimp
- 600g asparagus spears
- 50g butter, plus 1 tbsp
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- Pinch of mace
- 200g brown shrimps
- 40g breadcrumbs
- Bring a pan half full of salted water to the boil. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus (this is the best way to do it; they will naturally break at the point where they become chewy).
- While the water is warming, melt the butter in a frying pan, preferably one where it is easy to see the colour, over a medium heat. Simmer until it's melted and beginning to turn orange, then turn the heat right down, grate in the zest of the lemon and stir in a squeeze of its juice along with the mace. Stir in the shrimps and leave to warm through.
- Melt the remaining tbsp of butter in a small frying pan over a medium high heat, then toss the breadcrumbs until golden. Season well.
- Put the asparagus in the pan of boiling water, tips sticking out of the top of the water, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until just tender (the exact time will depend on the width of the stalks, so keep checking).
- Drain well, and then toss in the shrimp butter. Divide between serving plates and top with the breadcrumbs.