One thing I love about living in the English countryside is the widespread awareness of seasonality. British asparagus season is as eagerly-anticipated here as the summer’s first Pimm’s, and I have been gorging myself on the lovelies for the past month or two. The asparagus, obviously, not the Pimm’s. Ahem. But what to do when it all comes to a screeching halt? Two things, actually:
1. Find creative ways of using up the dredges of the crop, and
2. Console yourself that it’s now barbecue season. Yes, I know the sun won’t always cooperate, but another great thing about England is the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mantra that prevails. Rain? What rain?!
To these ends I offer up a creamy, minty potato salad, using what’s left of the asparagus as well as seasonal peas and new potatoes. It works well as a vegetarian main, or as a side with grilled meats, especially lamb. The fact that, unlike traditional potato salads, there is no mayonnaise means it won’t spoil as quickly if left out.** That makes it ideal for all those barbecues you’ll be having this summer (whether outdoors or in)!
Creamy Asparagus & Pea Potato Salad
What You Need:
1 kg (roughly 2 lbs) new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
500 g (roughly 1 lb or 2 bunches) asparagus, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
125 g (about a cup) fresh peas, shelled
100 g (1/2 cup) light cream cheese
125 ml (1/2 cup) light crème fraîche
1 clove garlic, minced
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
Salt/pepper to taste
What You Do:
1. Boil the potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes, or until they are just soft enough to pierce with a fork.
2. Before you drain them, throw in the asparagus and peas and let them boil for a few more minutes, until the peas are tender, then drain everything together and let cool in the strainer.
3. In a large bowl, mix the crème fraîche, cream cheese and garlic together until smooth, then add the potatoes, vegetables and mint.
4. Toss gently, to coat completely, and season to taste.
Notes For Next Time:
1. Fresh peas and new potatoes (first and second-crop) should be available all summer. If using later potatoes, you may need to increase the boiling time slightly.
2. Short on time? Make your life a bit easier by using a garlic-herb cream cheese instead of faffing about* with fresh garlic.
3. Once the asparagus is well and truly gone for the year, leave them out along with the peas and replace them with cubes of cucumber and feta cheese (or replace everything but the potatoes with a cupful of Fetziki) for a Greek-inspired variation. Opa!
*Faffing about, like dilly-dallying, is a wonderfully quirky British expression which roughly translates to ‘messing around’ in American-speak.
**Please see Lyndsay’s comment below regarding what causes potato salads to spoil, and promise me you won’t be cavalier about leaving yours out in the sun for hours!