Oy, what a long and complicated title for what is really a simple, quick and delicious dish!
Kipper and I were in town, and I spotted the first of the English asparagus on the market. The season is just starting, and doesn’t last long enough, so I snapped up a couple of bunches. English asparagus, in season, is so fantastically delicious, I can’t pass it by. It’s completely different to the imported asparagus you can get year-round in the supermarkets, which is underwhelming at best, and tasteless at worst. I’ve stopped buying it as a rule – too disappointing.
As we were paying for our asparagus – fresh from the fields of Norfolk, so it hasn’t come far! – I noticed some lovely oyster mushrooms on the stall, too. I had a hunch that their subtle nutty flavour would go well with the asparagus, and I was right. Yum.
The final element of this dinner was a lemon and pine nut pesto that I used to dress the spaghetti before topping it with the sautéed asparagus and mushrooms. It wasn’t a universal hit, sadly. DH and I both really liked it – the freshness of the lemon lifted the other flavours, while the earthy toasted pine nuts emphasised the delicious depths of the asparagus and mushrooms – but Kipper wasn’t into it AT ALL. She asked for her spaghetti plain, although she did munch down (more than) her fair share of asparagus and mushrooms.
If you see new season British asparagus around, I urge you to try this. Or else just to boil or steam a few spears for a minute or two, and then splodge with melted butter and eat, messily, with your fingers. I typically boil mine in a large shallow sauté pan so they’re all in a single later – boil the water, chuck them in, put the lid on, and pretty much as soon as the water comes back up to the boil, they’re done. I’m drooling just thinking about it
We could have eaten more than this. I’d say this serves 2 normal people, or 1 greedy person…
- 3-4 tbsp olive oil
- 40g pine nuts
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Zest of a lemon
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 bunches of English asparagus - about 300g in total
- 100g oyster mushrooms
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- Spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
- Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil over a low-medium heat. Add the pine nuts and garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until the nuts are golden. Tip into a bowl to cool, and keep the pan on one side for later.
- Put the pine nuts into a food processor or mini chopper, and add the lemon zest and juice, and the remaining olive oil. Process to a coarse paste, and set aside.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and cook the spaghetti as per the directions on the packet (ours took 11 minutes).
- Meanwhile, snap off the woody ends from the asparagus, then cut each spear in half. Slice the oyster mushrooms into chunky strips.
- Heat the oil in the pan you cooked the pine nuts in earlier. Fry the asparagus and mushrooms over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until just cooked.
- Once the spaghetti is cooked, stir 2 tbsp of the cooking water into the pesto, then drain the spaghetti.
- Toss the spaghetti with the pesto, and serve topped with the asparagus and mushrooms.