Get Dorset's finest wine and asparagus delivered to your door
- Credit: RichardBudd.co.uk
The start of the asparagus season in mid-April is always an exciting time for foodies, especially when those spears are grown locally and can be paired with a very special Dorset wine. Last year, Furleigh Estate, the award-winning vineyard at Salwayash in West Dorset, and their neighbours Chip and Anita de Greeff of Bothen Hill (winner of the 2019 BOOM Best of Organic Market Awards) combined two English seasonal classics: Furleigh Estate’s Bacchus white wine and Bothen Hill’s organic asparagus.
A Bacchus & Asparagus Dining event to celebrate St George’s Day was planned, but the mid-March lockdown stopped that. Rebecca Hansford, co-founder of Furleigh Estate with her husband Ian Edwards, decided that if the public couldn’t come to them, they would take the product to the public by post. After all what better way to cheer up friends and family shielding at home during lockdown than with a little taste of Dorset luxury delivered to their door?
Using social media to spread the word, this inspired idea was a huge success with online orders coming in from all over the country. It was especially popular with the footballers’ wives of Cheshire! This clever initiative won the neighbours Best Business Collaboration at Dorset Magazine’s Food, Drink & Farming Awards 2020.
The good news is that Bacchus & Asparagus by post is back for 2021. Two bunches of the West Dorset grown spears and a bottle of Bacchus Dry, together with a recipe card, are beautifully packaged and sent anywhere in mainland UK for £25. Order this glorious taste of Dorset spring at furleighestate.co.uk from the middle of April, depending on the asparagus being ready to harvest.
What is Bacchus wine?
Bacchus is a quintessential English grape variety which grows spectacularly well in West Dorset’s mild maritime climate. It was developed by viticulturalist Peter Morio in Germany in 1933 and is a cross between German favourite Müller Thurgau and traditional Alsace Silvaner-Riesling.
Tasting notes for Bacchus Dry 2018: A refreshing, crisp dry white wine with zesty fruit appeal. Floral scents of elderflower and honeysuckle combined with ripe orchard fruits including pear and white peach. It has a hint of herbaceous sweet pea-shoots, nettles and summer meadow on the nose. The palate is delightfully zesty with citrus flavours of lemon peel and grapefruit alongside gooseberry and passionfruit. There are herbal notes of lemongrass and parsley, followed by a touch of salty minerality on the finish.
Food matching: Perfect served chilled with seafood such as moules marinères or flat fish such as lemon sole, plaice, brill or turbot. Enjoy it with goats cheese, or asparagus drizzled with lemon butter. Also good with Japanese sushi and pickled ginger. Try it with Scandinavian pickled fish such as soused herrings or rollmops.
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How to cook asparagus
Fresh asparagus needs very little doing to it. Start by gently bending each stalk until it snaps – this ensures you have the tender spear rather than the woody bit. Then your options are:
Blanch it: Simply plunge the spears into boiling water for a couple of minutes then remove and plunge into ice cold water. This stops the cooking process and they keep their lovely bright green colour. Drain and store in the fridge until needed. Use cold or reheat.
Griddle it: Toss the spears in olive oil and season with salt and black pepper, then pop onto a hot griddle pan, or a BBQ for a nuttier tasting spear with stripes!
Roast it: Same process as griddling, drizzle with olive oil and season then roast in medium hot oven for 10 – 12 minutes, brings out its natural sweetness.
Steam it: I usually cook my asparagus with a splash of water in a frying pan with a lid on it, the water quickly evaporates and steams the spears in minutes.
Serve your spears with butter, olive oil, mayo, Hollandaise...or swap toast soldiers for spears with your soft boiled egg.
Recipe: Asparagus and Gruyère tart with heritage tomato salsa and purple basil
Want to create something a little more fancy with your Dorset spears? Try this fabulous savoury tart recipe, ideal for a light lunch, starter or posh picnic, from the Bridport-based catering company The Hungry Mule
For the tart
10 stems of asparagus, trimmed and sliced into 2cm pieces
1 leek sliced thinly
100g Gruyere, grated
150 ml double cream
salt and pepper
8 sheets of filo pastry
50g butter – melted
For the salsa
3 good quality/heritage tomatoes
1 red onion finely diced
Juice of a lime
1 chilli (optional)
Small bunch coriander
Baby purple basil leaves
Method: Preheat the oven to 170˚ C/ gas mark 3 and lightly grease 4 x 12cm tart cases. Sauté the leek in a little butter for 3 minutes, then set aside. Mix the eggs with the cream and season well.
Unroll the filo pastry, work quickly as it will dry out. Cut all the pastry into circles slightly bigger than your pastry cases. It does not need to be too neat as the over lapping corners and edges look good crisped up. Place disc inside your case and brush with melted butter. Put another layer on top, brush with butter, and repeat so you have at least four layers of filo pastry. Repeat for all four cases.
In each case put a pinch of the leeks, 2-3 spears of the asparagus. Pour over the cream until it almost covers the veg, you want some sticking out the top. Sprinkle over the grated cheese and place in the oven for approximately 15 minutes until just set and slightly golden on top.
Make the salsa: cut the tomatoes into quarters. Remove the seeds and core. Finely dice and put into a small bowl with the red onion. Roughly chop the coriander and add. Pour over a little olive oil to bind, add the lime juice and mix. Season well with decent salt just before serving.
Ideally serve these savoury tarts warm, remove from their tart cases, put a little salsa over and around the edge of the tart. Decorate with the purple basil. Serve with a little salad on the side and a nicely chilled glass of Bacchus Dry 2018.