There are times when this whole business of trying to eat seasonally and locally is a bit of a chore. Remember the endless, pink-stained days of beetroot? But finally the seasons turn and I can get excited about vegetables again. And this really is the most brilliant time of year to be eating vegetables in England - the asparagus is coming in for its brief, glorious season and broad beans are right around the corner. There are spring greens, the last of the purple sprouting broccoli, new potatoes and all is well with the world.
Last week, some lovely fat asparagus appeared in my vegetable box. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough of it for us to gorge on with eggs or hollandaise sauce, so I decided that I had to pad it out with a goodly amount of starch. I was thinking about risotto. I was thinking about a pasta dish. And then I decided to see if lovely, plump, barley-shaped orzo pasta Iknown in our house as torpedoes) could be treated like a risotto. Guess what? It can.
I started as per normal rice risotto - with a good knob of butter, and a finely diced onion sweating in it. I added my orzo, but didn't toast it for as long as I would rice, just turning it over in the butter to get a good coating, then I added about 1/4 cup of wine (I used a nice chablis). I stirred in the sliced stalks of the asparagus, reserving the spears for the end, and added half the stock and gave it a good stir. At this point, I put the lid on, rather than adding the stock little by little and continuing to stir, because orzo overcooks in the blink of an eye, and I didn't want it pureed. After 7 or 8 minutes, I added the rest of the stock and the aspargus spears and continued to cook it, covered and stirring occasionally, for another couple of minutes until the pasta was tender. At the end, I added butter and grated parmesan, and seasoned with a little salt and quite a lot of black pepper. It was creamy and delicious! The perfect delivery system for the beautiful fresh asparagus.