I absolutely love asparagus and think that there is no better way to prepare them than on a cast-iron pan or grill. The flavour of asparagus completely changes when it is grilled, it tastes so much better than when it is steamed or poached. The spears develop a wonderful smokiness and become slightly charred on the ends.
Charred vegetables cook really quickly, hold their crisp texture, and pick up just the right amount of pleasant bitterness to complement their natural sweetness.
Spring is the best time to purchase asparagus, between February to June (May to June for local Gower asparagus) however they are available year-round from international sources. They come in colours other than green; lookout for purple and white varieties too.
Depending on when the asparagus is harvested will determine the size, the wider spears have had more time to grow. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time for very thin or thick spears (can be woody). The long stems should be bright green in colour and firm, the tips should be closed, and the skin should have a smooth and rubbery sound when the bunch is squeezed together.
1 bunch of local asparagus
50 ml extra virgin oil
Rock salt and ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground garlic
1/2 ground onions
First prepare the asparagus. The very bottom of the spear needs to be trimmed because the bottom of the stem is tough. The best way to know where to cut the inedible part is holding the centre and bottom with your fingertips and snapping in half. That natural breaking point can be used as a guide to trim the rest of the spears.
A vegetable peeler can also be used to shave off the thick outer skin to reduce waste. Make sure to wash the asparagus before cooking and dry them with a towel before you char grill them.
Heat a cast iron pan or griddle.
Spread the asparagus onto a baking sheet, drizzle very lightly with oil and sprinkle with the rest of the ingredients.
Transfer asparagus to a hot cast-iron pan or to a grill. Let asparagus cook for 4 to 5 minutes, turned regular, until nicely charred, with a few burnt and blistered spots. Asparagus cooked this way tastes best if slightly undercooked and still bright green.
Kalamata olive tapenade
If you love olives, you’ll love the salty, briny flavour of this tapenade spread. I love to eat it on toast sour dough bread or fresh baguette or something with a neutral flavour profile that doesn’t compete with tapenade.
100 gr Kalamata pitted black olives
1 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovy fillets, minced
3 tbsp capers rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic roasted if desired
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
100 gr extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor, combine olives, anchovies (leave them out of vegetarian options) capers, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Pulse 2 to 3 times until coarsely chopped.
Drizzle in olive oil and pulse a few more times until a chunky paste forms, scraping down the sides as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature.
Replace the olive tapenade with a pesto made with wild garlic.
Use wild garlic instead of regular garlic in the tapenade.
Add Parmesan Regiano shavings to the asparagus for extra flavour.
Try the charred asparagus with some hummus at the bottom of the plate for vegan options instead of the burrata.
Try charring other vegetables as well (sprouting broccoli, cos lettuce, chicory, sugar snap peas, fine beans, cabbage and others and just drizzle with some vinaigrette for extra light and nutritious treat).