Spring is such an uplifting time of year and for me much of the good-mood factor can be put down to one simple and perfect ingredient: asparagus. My recent road trip in the States delivered me back in time to savour it from the beginning, and I’ve been eating it non-stop ever since. Generally, I proceed as follows: 1) I snap the woody ends of a fresh green bunch of English asparagus (I have little interest in continental white varieties) and lie them flat in a shallow tin or sheet pan that they fit in fairly snugly, and add the finely grated zest of an unwaxed lemon, some Maldon salt and olive oil, and schmoosh them about gently; 2) I roast them in a very hot oven for about 15 minutes (the asparagus I get tends towards the chunky) and then immediately they’re out of the oven, I pour over the juice of the zested lemon. Sometimes, à la How To Eat, I use silky slices of cured ham - prosciutto di San Daniele or jambon de Bayonne - as edible napkins, to wrap around the bottom and hold each juicy, slightly charred spear. Having said that, I don’t feel there’s a bad way to eat asparagus: boiled, steamed, braised, grilled, roast; the more occasions of pleasure in life there are, the happier I am. As a rule, though, I usually consider asparagus a solo act, rather than as a team-player. But now I have to reconsider. And I’m unleashing a new recipe on you that will show you why. This Spring Salad of Potatoes with Asparagus and Radish, tossed with tarragon and fragrantly but lightly coated in a herby buttermilk dressing is everything I want on my table right now.
It came about as a wonderful merging: Hettie Potter, my longtime helpmeet, made me an asparagus, potato and radish salad with a herby dressing when I got back from zigzagging across North America; I have been recently playing with a tarragon buttermilk dressing for tomatoes; this is the happy marriage of the two. And should you want to toast it in champagne, you know I wouldn’t blame you.