I’ve just started a new series of recipes for Borough Market.
Well, I say recipes; it’s more loose guidance towards assembling something simple from the produce you see in front of you (wherever you might shop). Platter food for sharing, basically. Seasonal ingredients, minimal to no cooking, and on a £15 budget.
You can follow it on their website, along with the many excellent recipes and articles that are updated daily (browse the tabs marked, err, ‘Recipes’ and ‘Articles’).
First up: a fresh, crunchy, sharply-dressed asparagus salad.
As mentioned, the series doesn’t set out recipe instruction in classic form. Here’s the method paraphrased; head to the original article to read about my shopping trip and rationale in full.
English asparagus is cheap, now (you should get 2-3 bunches for a fiver, wherever you shop), but won’t be around for much longer. So make the most of it.
My favourite way to prepare these green spears is to show them a large pan of boiling water for barely 3 mins, so they become tender but not yet floppy, then roll in melting butter and a little salt and black pepper before eating them with my fingers.
You can’t fill a platter with the five or six spears that make up a bunch, though, so I thought on this occasion of spreading the spears further by using my least rusty speed peeler to shave them into a salad. Look for ‘extra select’ graded asparagus if you can, as these are chunky enough to be peeled.
From there, grab some (ideally) baby cucumbers — which are at the intersection of the cucumber Venn diagram of ‘crunch’, ‘juiciness’, and ‘flavour’ — a big bunch of dill and a lemon and a bag of rocket to pad out the assembly and also bring nasal-bracing pepperiness; something that layers well with the freshness of the asparagus and sharp citrus.
Smoked salmon provides a necessary dash of pink, as well as a contrasting flavour and texture. The asparagus and greens still star, but the addition of this fish turns the dish from a side salad to a light lunch that’ll feed at least two — more if you add some fresh sourdough and maybe some other cold cuts or platters, picked up at the same time.
In terms of assembly, you can pretty much do what you want, though I suggest peeling and then chunking the cucumbers and letting them sit in a little olive oil, half the lemon juice, sugar, salt, white pepper and chopped dill while you prepare the rest of the salad. Let the shaved asparagus (and any chunky bits that can’t be shaved) sit in the remaining lemon juice and more olive oil, and mix the rocket through that at the last minute. Transfer to a platter, scatter over the marinated cucumbers, then more dill fronds over the top.