Come late spring and early summer British asparagus is bountiful. I find myself picking up a bunch at least a couple of times a week to make the most of the short season.
Start by frying the pancetta in a pan. If it’s quite fatty you won’t need any oil but if it’s lean add a spoonful of oil to the pan to stop it from sticking. Cook until golden brown and the fat has rendered so it’s quite crispy.
Remove the pancetta from the pan and set it aside for a moment. Place the asparagus spears in the same pan along with a little water, some salt and a sprinkle of pepper. Cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes until steam rises and they start caramelising: really fat asparagus spears will need 3–4 minutes, thinner ones will only need around 2 minutes to cook through.
Arrange the asparagus spears on a plate, top with the pancetta and shave as much Parmesan as you like over the top. Drizzle with olive oil if you wish and eat while warm.
- Use pecorino instead of Parmesan, or try it with some Gorwydd Caerphilly or Mrs
- If you wish to add some heat, try frying a chopped red or green chilli alongside the pancetta, or sprinkle some chilli flakes on top of the finished dish.
- If you like a melted cheese effect you can grill the cheese briefly, although do this on a heatproof tray or tin before transferring the cheesy asparagus on to a plate.
© Signe Johansen, 2018. Images:© Patricia Niven, 2018.