Essential ingredients: asparagus


Roast asparagus, Jersey royals, salsa verde and Parmesan puree, photographed by Joe Woodhouse
Photograph: Joe Woodhouse

As we officially start sipping our way into summer, our Head Chef Stewart Turner has put together a recipe designed for al fresco feasts. His roast asparagus with Jersey royals and salsa verde is perfect for light lunches in the garden, or a sophisticated starter when hosting

Every year I wax lyrical about British asparagus. It is one of our greatest seasonal ingredients, a heavyweight of the culinary year. Asparagus deteriorates relatively quickly after picking, which is why freshly picked English asparagus is to jet-lagged imported asparagus, what a Michelin-starred dinner is to a TV one. The season is short, although it seems to get earlier each year thanks to polytunnel-ed asparagus that starts to appear as early as mid-March (although these carry a high price tag). The main season starts in mid-April and runs until the summer solstice, when the last is harvested (although in recent years it has hung around until mid-July). Versatile and delicious, I just can’t get enough.

Asparagus with Jersey royals, salsa verde and Parmesan puréeServes 6
  • 3 bunches of asparagus – broken at the woody part of the stem
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 100g potatoes – peeled, boiled in salted water, drained and kept warm
  • 150g Parmesan – 100g grated and 50g shaved
  • 100g crème fraîche
  • 150g Jersey royals – cooked and dressed in a little lemon vinaigrette

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and massage in to coat, then season well with salt and pepper. Arrange the asparagus on a baking tray in a single layer. Roast in the preheated oven until just tender – about 10 minutes depending on the spears’ thickness.

In a jug blender, combine the warm boiled potatoes, crème fraîche and grated Parmesan. Blend to a smooth purée, season to taste and transfer to a pan and keep warm.

When ready to serve, place a dollop of the purée in the centre of warmed plates. Arrange the Jersey royals on top and lay over the asparagus. Spoon over some salsa verde and finish with the Parmesan shavings.

For the salsa verde:

  • 50g parsley
  • 25g mint
  • 25g basil
  • 50g capers
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove – peeled and finely chopped
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 1 lemon – zest and juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Pick and finely chop the herbs, roughly chop the capers and place in a bowl with the herbs. Add the mustard, garlic, olive oil and lemon zest. Mix well, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and finish with the lemon juice.

What to drink: In general, asparagus demands something similarly green – grassy, herbaceous wines with plenty of acidity. Sancerre or other Loire Sauvignon Blancs (we’re currently enjoying Landrat-Guyollot’s Pouilly-Fumé) are a classic match, as is the sommelier favourite Grüner Veltliner. English Bacchus happens to work well too. For this dish, where the asparagus comes with the tang of salsa verde and the comfort of the season’s finest Jersey royals, the aforementioned options would all do, but we’re also tempted by Gavi (Roberto Sarotto’s Bric Sassi is particularly good), Assyrtiko or perhaps an Arneis.

Explore our full range of wines and spirits for summer on