asparagus, beetroot, cream cheese, dairy-free, green asparagus, Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon, tartlets, Vale of Evesham, Vegan, vegan recipe, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Living magazine, white asparagus
Did you know that the official start to the uk asparagus season falls on Shakespeare’s birthday? If you are a big fan of the elegant green spears it’s time to indulge - the season lasts a mere eight weeks!
We live just minutes outside Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, and less than half an hour from the Vale of Evesham which is known as the centre of British asparagus growing. Asparagus and Shakespeare – so quintessentially British!
When I grew up in Germany, the shops only ever sold white Asparagus. (I never saw the green variety until I came to the UK).
Farmers grow the white spears underground and make mounds of soil above the planting area where the asparagus is planted. It grows in complete darkness, often covered with black foil to warm up the soil and speed up the growing time. Without access to sunlight the spears never photosynthesise and stay a creamy white colour. Once the tiny little tips poke through the surface they will be dug out, washed and graded by thickness before they hit the shops. Harvesting by hand is labour intensive and makes the white variety a lot more expensive. At the start of the season you can pay up to €15 per kilogram.
In the UK, the green asparagus is definitely the preferred choice and with it’s vibrant colour it makes a stylish addition to any meal.
Asparagus has often been hailed for its aphrodisiac properties. In the 17th century Nicholas Culpepper, an English herbalist, claimed that asparagus “stirs up lust in man and woman”. Who knows if it’s really true - it certainly is a great source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, thiamin and folic acid. So share your love for the tasty spring vegetable with this week’s recipe.
Asparagus and Beetroot Tartlets.
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (e.g. Jus-Rol or some supermarkets’ own brand)
175g dairy-free cream cheese
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp vegan mayonaise
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
salt and pepper to taste
2 cooked beetroots, cut into small cubes
Line four 5” tartlet tins with the pastry and bake them at 200˚C for 20 minutes or until the pastry turns a nice golden brown. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.
Whenever I roll out the cut-offs again, I find that the pastry never rises as evenly. But then, slightly wonky cases taste just as good!
While the pastry is baking, combine the cream cheese with the remaining ingredients and the chopped tarragon. This fragrant herb adds a distinctive flavour similar to fennel and aniseed; parsley works really well as an alternative if you prefer.
Cook a 200g bundle of asparagus until just tender. Drain and reserve 8 asparagus tips for decoration. Chop the remaining asparagus into small pieces and stir them into the cream cheese mixture, together with the finely cubed beetroots. Divide the filling between the four cases and serve with a colourful side salad and new potatoes. These tarts with their stunning colours look gorgeous served as part of a picnic yet they are elegant enough for an alfresco dinner party on an early summer’s day.
This recipe was first published in my monthly column for Vegetarian Living Magazine (Subscription discount for Vegetarian Society members!).
I’ve also submitted this to the #BettaRecipe competition by Betta Living for National Vegetarian Week. For all the details on how to enter click here.
I’ve got a nice bundle waiting in the fridge and would love some tasty inspirations and ideas.
So, what’s your favourite way to enjoy asparagus? White or green? Or even purple?