Oh Lord, not another asparagus recipe: why seasonality is problematic plus another asparagus recipe

Happy Easter. British lamb isn’t in season until Autumn. Have a rant. 

I am bored titless by the ‘eat seasonally’ discourse. It’s been the same for years: “everything tastes better when it’s in season”, “stop buying strawberries in December!” and “61 ideas for using swedes that aren’t bestowing them charitably upon a local pig”. 

I’m bored by it all, not just because ‘eating seasonally’ is a vague and ill-defined term (it is), or because it makes me feel guilty for wanting to eat fresh tomatoes at Christmas (it does). No. I am bored of it because for too long ‘eat seasonally’ has been used as a crutch to support a gangrenous food system, except the crutch is made of cardboard, doesn’t really work, and only looks like a crutch if you’re wearing the right kind of middle-class glasses. 

I’m not arguing that ‘eat seasonally’ is actively bad advice here – we all know that berries taste better in the UK during summer and have travelled fewer miles from farm to yogurt. My disgruntlement is that ‘eat seasonally’ is marketed as a silver bullet solution to a vastly complex web of food issues, many of which we don’t even think about. 

Have a case study. 

Any day this week, you or I can grab a salad containing prawns off a supermarket shelf. I’d be lying – and I’m sure you’d be too – if I said was thinking about the fact that the prawns were farmed and peeled (possibly by slave labour) in Indonesia, then shipped over here to be joined in that plastic package by several other globe-trotting ingredients such as quinoa, mango, almonds or avocados, each of which saunter into the discourse with their own highly individualised set of issues. But heaven forbid you ever buy Peruvian blueberries.

And yes, of course, two wrongs don’t make a right and I’m employing some hefty whataboutism here. But if you’d like to devour some some acerbically dispatched evidence from someone who has actually investigated how our food system works (or doesn’t), go and eat a copy of Jay Rayner’s 2013 book A Greedy Man in a Hungry World, which is still dishearteningly relevant today. Additionally, Henry Dimbleby’s newly released Ravenous: How to Get Ourselves and Our Planet Into Shape promises an exploration into the health and climate side of matters, delving into how unfettered global capitalism is destroying everything we love – it’s the next thing on my reading list after I finish the 12 other books I’m currently whoring about with. 

Really, I wanted this blog post to be about a nice chickpea and asparagus recipe with conchiglie (pasta shells, for you uncultured lot) because asparagus is in season about now. But asparagus is also available to buy in the shops before it was ‘in season’, and you’ll be able to buy it in the shops after it’s ‘in season’ too, and the price doesn’t differ all that much. This got me thinking about things, which in turn made me grumpy. And I’m at perfect liberty to share this grumpiness, because it’s my own blog and my own grumpiness and only about 37 people read it. If you’re one of those 37, I hope it made you consider something other than how much you’d like a cup of tea for a minute or two. 

Anyway, here’s that recipe which is very lovely, actually. Consider me flinging it at you in the style of a three year old who is very upset about having the wrong type of political system in their dinner. 

“Springtime” one-pan creamy asparagus, chickpea and lemon pasta

Serves 2

You’ll need

  • 2 smallish portions of pasta shells (doesn’t have to be conchiglie but the chickpeas bury themselves into them like pearls in an oyster. Orecchiette also works but I shop at Lidl.)
  • A package of Boursin or half a tub of that cheaper off-brand garlic and herb cream cheese
  • A tin of chickpeas
  • The zest of a small lemon (about a teaspoon)
  • A packet of asparagus, around 100g
  • A small knob of hard cheese such as grana padano (30g should do it, or something the size of an average mouse)
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of nutmeg, fresh if possible
  • A few tablespoons of chopped parsley (optional)
  • Black pepper 
  • Salt 

In a large saucepan, tip in your drained chickpeas and cover them with around two litres of cold water and two heaped teaspoons of salt, and bring this to the boil. This is to help soften the chickpeas so they’re matching the mouthfeel of the pasta a little more. Meanwhile, chop your asparagus into inch long lengths, zest the lemon and grate the hard cheese. 

When the chickpeas are at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook it until it’s about 3 minutes under al dente. Add in the chopped asparagus and continue to boil until the pasta is cooked through, then reserve a mug of pasta water and drain everything over the sink into a colander. Return everything to the pan, and add in the cream cheese, grated cheese, nutmeg, parsley if using, black pepper and a dash or two of the pasta water to loosen everything up again. Serve in bowls with more cheese and black pepper. 


One thought on “Oh Lord, not another asparagus recipe: why seasonality is problematic plus another asparagus recipe

  1. Grrrr….with you all the way on this topic !…and you get two for one at this end, so 38, that is, I get your blog and read it to my bloke…who totally agrees with everything I say……’cos he loves good food!! Cheers for the revolution🥳


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