Emily Jonzen’s light and zingy dish celebrates her favourite flavours of early Spring, rounded off with a zip of citrus and a chilli kick
IMAGE AND STYLING: EMILY JONZEN
Whilst April is abundant with bright green buds and blossom hanging heavily from trees, in farming terms it is seen as the leanest and potentially most difficult month of the year. The so called ‘Hungry Gap’ is the bridge between the winter harvest of brassicas and roots and the wealth of fruit and vegetables to come in high Spring and Summer – leaving little to no fresh local produce for farmers to harvest.
Existing, as the majority of us do, on supermarket food, we could barely notice this seasonal dip, except if we peer very carefully at a packet of vegetables and see it labelled as having been grown in Mexico or Tanzania.
Happily, one of the first Springtime superstars to emerge from UK soil is asparagus. The bright and clean flavour of asparagus is a welcome change from starchy winter vegetables and it marries well with strong and subtle flavours alike. I love it pan-fried with brown butter or capers, grilled on a barbecue or shaved very finely and eaten raw, like in this salad.
This salad celebrates some of my favourite flavours of early Spring and rounds them off with a zip of lemon and a kick of chilli. Crab is coming into season so make the most of it and use it in risottos, pasta or even atop tacos. I’ve added texture and a note of sourness to the recipe with some toasted sourdough crumbs, but any breadcrumbs will work well. This salad is perfect for a light lunch but can be bulked up with hunks of bread and a dollop of crème fraiche on the side.
Shaved Asparagus and Crab Salad with Fennel, Radishes and Sourdough Crumbs
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 garlic clove bashed with the back of a knife
- 30 g leftover sourdough bread blitzed briefly to make rough breadcrumbs
- 1 small fennel bulb
- A handful of radishes about 50g
- 250 g British Asparagus spears
- Juice of half a lemon
- A pinch of caster sugar to taste
- A small handful of chives finely chopped
- Pinch of chilli flakes
- Pour one tablespoon of the oil into a non-stick frying pan and add the garlic clove. Place over a low/medium heat and occasionally move the garlic around the pan, until gently sizzling and golden. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan along with a good pinch of flaky sea salt and fry for 4-5 minutes, until golden. Remove from the heat.
- Finley slice the fennel with a sharp knife or a mandolin for the brave and reserve any fronds. Repeat with the radishes. Shave the asparagus using a vegetable peeler. Add all of the sliced vegetables to a salad bowl.
- Sprinkle the crab meat over the vegetables and then make the dressing. Mix together the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and caster sugar. Season to taste and then stir through the chives.
- Immediately pour the dressing over the salad and scatter with the breadcrumbs, chilli flakes and fennel fronds. Delicious with a crisp glass of white in the sunshine.
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