It’s ‘Eat your vegetables’ day today, and as we’re (apparently) in summer, my way to take maximum advantage of that is to whip up something seasonal and simple.
We’re right at the end of the British growing season for asparagus – the last few weeks really – so now’s your last chance to make the most of it. To really make it sing, you don’t need to do much, and my absolute favourite way to cook it is to simply boil for up to four minutes, then toss in a really good butter.
For reasons I won’t bore you with, I’ve been exploring dairy made from alternatives to cow’s milk (I’ve debated whether it should be ‘cows’ or ‘cow’ or ‘cow’s’ milk all throughout this post, I’m plumping for ‘cow’s’, but Delamere write it as ‘goats’, so I’m being true to that where relevant).
The most straightforward is sheep’s or goat’s milk, and even though you can’t substitute if you have a lactose intolerance, if it’s specifically cow’s milk you have a problem with, you can give it a go.
Exploring the best producers on the market, there’s one that comes up time and time again, both online and in specialist stores; Delamere. This is largely because it holds 45% of the UK goat’s milk market, but also because it’s such good quality. While they sell a handful of fresh and UHT cow’s milk products, they specialise in a wide range of goat’s milk products; whole/semi/skimmed milks, yoghurts (in plain, honey, strawberry and damson & plum flavours), spreadable goat cheese, greek goat cheese, hard goat cheese, goat cheese logs, and as luck would have it, butter.
Roger & Liz Sutton named their dairy after Cheshire’s beautiful Delamere Forest where they started their first herd with just three goats, back in 1985. Today, over 25 years later, so huge is the demand for their products that family farmers from across Britain help with supplies of milk. Plus, the Dairy operates a strict, independently monitored, Farm Assurance and Welfare Code, which means their herd of white British Saanens are both healthy & happy.
If I’m honest, I’ve never really been a fan of milk (only drinking skimmed milk in small quantities) so I’ll admit I was a little wary of trying Delamere’s goats butter. Even though I’m a huge fan of cow’s butter, there was a hesitancy I can’t fully explain. Needless to say, in the spirit of exploration, I set out with an open mind.
As you can see from the photos, it looks like butter (albeit lighter in colour), and you’ll have to trust me that it smells like butter, and feels like butter. Largely because that’s exactly what it is, produced in the same way as ‘regular’ butter, but just using goats’ cream.
I used Wye Valley asparagus, which is an utterly wonderful producer run by fourth-generation farmers, the Chinn family, in the Wye Valley, near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire. It’s hearty and thick stemmed, and you can buy it in M&S. The Chinn family are the sole providers of asparagus there.
Anyway, like I said, a rolling boil for 4 minutes max, or else you’ll destroy the poor things, then drain and leave to cool slightly. If you toss the asparagus in the butter, you risk breaking or damaging it, so my recommendation would be to plate up – then add a little bit of the butter on top to melt. Squeeze on the lemon, season, and you’re golden.
The goats butter *is* lovely. It’s really creamy, and has the same sharpness you’ll find familiar if you’re a fan of goat’s cheese. It is mild though, and not distracting at all from the wonderful flavour of the asparagus. Served up with a pan-fried fillet of Scottish salmon and extra lemon; it’s the perfect summer dish.