In season from St George’s day to midsummer, British grown, or even better, home grown, asparagus is one of the most eagerly anticipated early summer treats. Perfect just lightly steamed and served with melted butter or sliced raw into salads, asparagus also makes a lovely early summer soup.
Before you start:snap off the woody ends of the spears before preparing asparagus: hold the end of the stalk with one hand and bend it gently with the other. It will break automatically just above the woody part. Save the stalk ends for the stock.
- 350g asparagus
- 1¼ litres water
- 1 large stick leafy celery, chopped but not de-strung
- 25g salted butter
- 1 medium-large onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons dry vermouth
- Coarsely ground black pepper
This beautiful soup contains butter and flour which gives a creamy consistency without the need for cream.
Remove the asparagus heads and set aside. Run a peeler lightly down the stalks, paring away any skin and scales. Chop the pared stalks.
Add the woody ends of the asparagus, halved vertically plus parings and the celery to the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30-60 minutes.
Cook the onions slowly in butter until soft. Add the pared and chopped asparagus stalks for the final 10 minutes of cooking. Sprinkle with flour and stir to blend. Continue to cook for 3 minutes, turning up the heat slightly and stirring frequently. Strain the asparagus stock and add slowly, stirring constantly. Season, bring briefly to the boil, add the vermouth and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the asparagus is soft.
Cool slightly. Steam the asparagus heads for 2 minutes. Add to thesoup. Whiz in a food processor or blender. Taste for seasoning.
If at all fibrous, push the through a sieve, otherwise, and ideally, leave it slightly textured. Return to the washed pan and heat through gently until piping hot.
Serve garnished with chives and a few edible flowers if you are feeling fancy.