Marcus Bean is a self taught chef who regularly appears on ITV’s This Morning, as well as featuring on the new Channel 4 cooking show, What’s Cooking? He’s a real supporter of seasonal British food and believes that anyone can learn to cook well. We find out why he has such a passion for British Asparagus.
“It’s like Christmas day for chefs and foodies when the first bunches of asparagus arrive in the kitchen. One of the things I love about British asparagus is that it’s seasonal, fresh and tastes fantastic. As a country we don’t export any of it, we keep it all for ourselves – that shows how good it really is! For the few months that asparagus is available it never leaves my menu, and why should it?
I think one of the reasons everyone loves British asparagus so much is down to its versatility — it works brilliantly in many of our favourite dishes, from breakfast through to dinner. There is so much you can do with it and it’s quick and simple. My customers look forward to the season with real anticipation and ask me when it’s coming. When it finally arrives it goes straight onto my menu and doesn’t leave until the last bunch is eaten.
British asparagus is the best in the world. To be sure you’re getting the best of the best, check out the colour — the freshest asparagus is a really vibrant green. The heads are also important — make sure they are nice and tight. And look for a clean ’snap’ when breaking the root, which proves just how fresh it is. My all-time favourite way with asparagus is chargrilled. Whether on the BBQ or under the kitchen grill, I love the smoky flavour and great bite. It’s so easy — just a bit of butter and a sprinkle of salt and it’s perfect.
My two girls love asparagus, but I know it’s not always easy to convince kids to try something new. The key is to think like them — make it fun and let them get involved in the making. My girls love it as an ingredient on home-made pizza, for example. Or, try steamed ’asparagus soldiers’ with dippy eggs. After all, who doesn’t love dippy eggs?!”
Marcus’ top tips for the perfect hollandaise…
1. Use really fresh, free-range eggs — as fresh as you can lay your hands on. The fresher the egg, the better the ingredients bind and the sauce is less likely to split. Fresh, free range eggs also make for a creamier, richer hollandaise. I get my eggs from my mother-in-law’s farm down the road. You really notice the difference and so I always use them when I can.
2. Make sure you season the sauce really well as it helps to bring out the flavour. I like to incorporate tarragon but there are loads of different flavours you can try — from a splash of orange juice to chopped spinach.
3. Finally, if your hollandaise does start to split while you’re whisking, add a little warm water (about a tea-spoon should be enough) and it should help to bring it back together.
Marcus’ advice for the perfect poached egg…
1. Bring a pan half-filled with water to the boil.
2. Break your egg into a small cup or ramekin (so you don’t have to worry about bits of shell going into the pan).
3. Once the water has reached the boil, turn off the heat (but keep the pan on the hob).
4. Carefully lower the ramekin into the water, gently tip in (don’t drop from a height) and put the pan lid straight back on.
5. Check your egg after about a minute — this is normally long enough, although sometimes might need an extra few seconds.
You can find out more about Marcus at www.marcusbean.co.uk