It’s that time of year again when the first few spears of British Asparagus appear, the tell tale sign that we are well and truly over winter, and summer is just around the corner. Asparagus can be used in a variety of delicious dishes from risottos to salads, it’s fantastically good for you, is packed with nutrients and bursting with taste.
The British Asparagus season only lasts 8 weeks, so make the most of it while you can.

Saffron Risotto with Parma Ham, Asparagus and Parmesan

Serves 4
Generous pinch of saffron strands
2 tbsp olive oil
350g (12oz) risotto rice
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
150ml (1/4pt) Italian dry white wine
150g (6oz) fine asparagus or fine green beans, sliced
1 litre (1 3/4pt) hot vegetable stock
6 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices Parma Ham, torn in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Put the saffron strands into a measuring jug and add 150ml (1/4 pt) boiling water. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes
• Heat the olive oil in a large deep frying pan or saucepan. Add the rice and cook over a low heat for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring all the time until it looks translucent, but not brown. Add the spring onions and garlic. Cook gently for another minute, stirring frequently
• Pour in the white wine and let it bubble up for a few moments. Add the saffron and its soaking liquid, the asparagus or green beans and a couple of ladlefuls of hot stock. Stir well, then cook over a medium heat for 20-25 minutes, gradually adding the remaining stock a ladleful at a time, until the rice is tender
• Add the grated Parmesan and Parma Ham, stirring them through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then serve
Cook’s tip: For best results, use Italian arborio or carnaroli rice for a deliciously creamy result.

Asparagus with Parma Ham

Tender tips of asparagus wrapped in Parma ham and served with Maille Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4
16 spears of asparagus
sea salt
4 slices Parma ham
4 tbsp Maille Hollandaise Sauce

Hold an asparagus spear at the top in one hand then grasping the end with the other hand, snap the spear at the base. It will break off at a natural point removing the tough end from the tender spear. Discard the tough end. Repeat with all the other spears.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt. Plunge spears in and cook for 2-3 minutes, depending on size. Drain and immediately plunge into iced water for 5 minutes to stop the cooking and retain the bright green colour.

Remove from iced water and blot on kitchen paper. Wrap bundles of 4 bundles of asparagus in Parma ham. Serve with Maille Hollandaise Sauce on the side.

Griddled Asparagus with Maille Mayonnaise dip

You’ll need:
2 bunches of asparagus
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Mayonnaise – Make your own or open a jar
1/2 tbsp Maille Dijon Mustard
black pepper to taste

What to do:

1. Chop ends of asparagus as in recipe above
2. Toss the asparagus in olive oil and griddle for 2 – 3 minutes
3. Meanwhile mix mayonnaise and the mustard together in a bowl, add black pepper and serve

Salad Verte

Serves 4
Large handful (100g) of thin French beans, trimmed
Large handful British Asparagus
3 – 4 large broccoli florets
Large handful of baby broad beans
2 heads chicory, separated into leaves
75g/3oz frozen peas
2 tbsp Maille vinaigrette (see below)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Maille Vinaigrette

6 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Pinch of sugar
Black pepper
Pinch of salt
Mix together until mixture thickens slightly, taste and add more vinegar / oil to taste

Separately blanch French beans, asparagus, frozen peas and broccoli. Drain and refresh under cold water. At the same time, cook broad beans in boiling lightly salted water, drain and peel off outer skins. Discard these. Place all in a large bowl with chicory leaves. Pour over Maille Vinaigrette. Toss lightly.
Divide salad between serving bowls and enjoy!