Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Prawn and asparagus tagliatelle

The asparagus season is woefully short so I practically live off it at this time of year. You can, of course, buy it all year round if you're happy to pay supermarket prices for imported spears. I think British asparagus tastes better though and I prefer to shop local (we all need to watch our food miles, in my view) and in season. And anyway, if you can buy it all year round there's nothing to look forward to. (Parsnips in summer are just plain wrong, too.)

This is a lovely summery dish that can be rustled up really quickly - 15-20 minutes if you prep in the right order. As ever, adjust the quantity to suit your hunger level.

What you need: 
150g cooked and peeled king prawns
4-6 asparagus spears
125g fresh tagliatelle
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Creme fraiche
Parmesan cheese

What to do: 
Cook the asparagus for about 6 minutes in lightly boiling water. Melt a small knob of butter in a pan over a moderate heat and sauté the shallot until it's transparent and soft.

Get the pasta water on to boil. Drain the asparagus and slice the stems into 3cm lengths. Deglaze the shallots in the pan with the tiniest splash of vermouth, toss in the prawns and asparagus plus two generous spoonfuls of crème fraiche. Stir everything through and season to taste.

Cook the tagliatelle at a fierce boil for 3 minutes - it should be al dente. Drain well and tip onto a plate. Spoon over the sauce and finish with a few Parmesan shavings.

Cook's tips: 
First, boil a kettle. Twice. It's the quickest way to get things simmering on the hob and in a recipe where you have two pans that need boiling water, boil the kettle for the asparagus, use what you need then top the kettle up from the tap and boil again for the pasta.

Timing is everything but it's better to have the prawns and asparagus ready first - they'll be fine keeping warm on the hob on the lowest heat - use a diffuser if you need one. Prep the shallot first before you do anything else and the rest should flow easily.

Asparagus doesn't need much prepping - just snap the ends of the stems off at the point between tenderness and woodiness, usually the last inch or so.