As fellow chef Martin Hollis observed last week, one of the signs that spring is here in Courier Country is the availability of fresh asparagus, grown by only a handful of specialist farmers with real love and attention.
An ingredient I’m happy to champion, it’s surely one of our most anticipated crops. Taking longer to grow in Scotland due to the chilly climate, Glamis asparagus is given a little bit longer in the sun than asparagus grown in other parts of country. This contributes to its superior taste and flavour, earning it praise from many a Michelin chef who claim that it is as good as anything they can get from Europe.
If you can get it, and be quick, as it’s only around for about six weeks, a wonderful way to showcase it is to prepare this dish of blue ling, a substantial and truly delicious deep water fish, which is fished off the coast of Scotland.
It’s a fish some people may not have heard of, and I use it a lot at Little’s Restaurant. Don’t be fobbed off by a fishmonger telling you white ling is the same, as it isn’t.
Take four 150g blue ling, fully trimmed and dust with 1 tsp smoked paprika and salt and pepper. You will need one bunch of the Glamis asparagus. You will also need to source a good handful of wild garlic and please ensure it is picked from an area where people don’t walk their dogs. Wild garlic tends to grow in woods near or amongst patches of bluebells.
Salsa verde is a classic sauce to accompany fish, and brings this dish to life. Mix 100g flat parsley, 100g coriander, one tbsp of capers, one clove of garlic, and the juice of one lemon in a blender to prepare it, with salt and pepper to taste. Add up to half pint of olive oil to the required consistency and set aside.
Trim, prepare and cook the asparagus in tall, thin pot with a tight lid where it can stand in a couple of inches of water and be steamed for three to four minutes. Failing this drop it into a pan of boiling water for two minutes.
Warm a non-stick pan and place blue ling seasoned-side down (this will become the presentation side). Cook on a medium heat for three minutes, taking care not to burn the paprika, turn over, remove from heat, and allow to rest – the heat of the pan will be sufficient to cook the fish through. You should see juices appear above the crust.
Dress your salad with salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little olive oil and place in a nice bowl.
Want to trim and cook asparagus perfectly? Trim ends of asparagus until you don’t touch wood and it feels nice and soft and then take a potato peeler and sharpen the asparagus like a pencil. Cook the asparagus in a tall, thin pot with a tight lid,