May is an exciting time here in Britain – after the long grey
winter, the first shoots of home-grown produce are pushing
through the earth in earnest, and perhaps none more
eagerly anticipated than our world-famous asparagus.
Traditionally the season kicks off on St George's Day on
23rd April, and runs until the summer solstice, almost two
months later, so this month is prime time for gorging oneself silly.
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
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,
the softness of Three Choir's First Release 2018 vintage working
well with the butter too. Eat al fresco, if you dare, and dream of warmer days
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.