Thick-stemmed, succulent asparagus from the eastern counties is always a treat, and here the superb flavour shines out. Go for tight heads, fresh-looking stalks and a good colour when shopping. Chilled soup makes an excellent start to a dinner party on a warm evening and this one, with its pretty green colour and luxurious consistency, is a particularly good choice.
SERVES 6 (AS A STARTER)
700 g (1 1/2 lb) asparagus
salt and pepper
25 g (1 oz) butter
2 medium onions, skinned and roughly chopped
1.4 litres (2 1/2 pints) chicken stock
150 ml (5 fl oz) fresh single cream
grated lemon rind, to garnish
1. Cut the heads off the asparagus and simmer them very gently in salted water for 3 -5 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and refresh with cold water.
2. Scrape the asparagus stalks with a potato peeler or knife to remove any scales and cut off the woody ends. Thinly slice the stalks.
3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus stalks and onions, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, until beginning to soften.
4. Add the stock and season to taste. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the asparagus and onion are tender.
5. Allow to cool slightly, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Sieve to remove any stringy particles, then stir in the cream.
6. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 hours.
7. Serve, garnished with the reserved asparagus tips and grated lemon rind.