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Asparagus.

One year on.

If we’re being honest, it started with the fish, not the asparagus.

 

Last Easter, there was only one salmon left at the fishmongers, and it was nearly the size of our five year old. As there were only six of us to eat it, we had leftovers. A lot of them.

 

So we did the only thing that made sense, gathering a motley crew of mates in the back garden and spending an afternoon cheerfully demolishing the contents of our fridge. And it was then that we had the casual conversation that changed everything. Lori. Dave. Jo. It went something along the lines of “This is good, shall we do one together, but a bit more organised?” Yes? Yes.

 

Three weeks later, we were hosting our first feast. A test run among friends, blessed with Spanish levels of sunshine, an excellent group of guinea pigs and one of the country’s best asparagus farms an 11 minute drive from our house.

 

It was the food that got us excited, of course. But it was what happened in the run-up too. The three of us getting to know each other around our dining table at night, recipe ideas pinging around between us like pinballs as our kids slept upstairs. And accidentally having six more ideas for future feasts in the meantime. It was a creative outlet as much as a practical marathon.

 

We scrambled to buy plates and bowls, the little yellow-rimmed enamel ones we still use now. We dressed tables and made friends with the haberdashery. We printed menus. Found chairs in garages and other people’s houses. Realised pretty quickly you can’t get asparagus into a dessert.

 

We kicked things off simply with a pile of grilled asparagus and bowls of homemade aioli.

Then ramped it up with a chilled and blindingly green soup, topped with pickled radish and served with a bacon jam and mozzarella soldier for dunking.

Then came the duck eggs, panko fried crispiness on the outside and exploding yolks on the inside, piled on old wooden platters with steamed spears and gallons of hollandaise.

There was a raw salad we ate too fast to take pictures of, shaving Sevenscore’s long and spindly asparagus into ribbons and adding nothing more than a splash of good olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

A risotto, made with asparagus broth, asparagus spears and capped with a guanciale crumb and a snowdrift of parmesan.

And then we sank into plates of floofy pavlova, all whipped cream, rosewater, molasses and Kent’s ripest strawberries.

 

The kids ate saffron-spiked risotto alla Milanese, but the brave ones lurked around the grownups’ table, nicking asparagus and realising they actually liked a green vegetable. They coloured frenetically  (who knew asparagus illustrations with funny faces were a thing?), ran, splashed, and went happily feral under the rays.

 

Back at the table, wine flowed. Conversation did the same. Dancing followed soon after.

Someone nearly missed their flight.

We understood at that exact moment the power of food on a table and people around it.

The chemistry that can happen when the ingredients are right.

 

One year on, we’re feeling very lucky. We’ve thrown a pirate feast on the beach and missed a storm by seconds. We’ve celebrated the food of autumn and Mr Charles Dickens at Bleak House, overlooking Viking Bay. We’ve let people eat seafood straight off rock covered tables at the Home for Smack Boys in Ramsgate harbour as the Christmas lights twinkled on the boats outside. We’ve made eight vegetarian courses in the fairy-lit Italianate Glasshouse. We’ve fed 500 at Dreamland and catered everything from private parties to fashion shoots. We’ve met some amazing people. We’ve found that knocking on the door and having a chat is often the best way to make something happen.

 

The tablecloths have got longer.

The menus have become more ambitious.

The prep lists have got sillier.

But we’re still full of beans. Full of ideas.

And huge fans of asparagus.

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