The annual journey of juicy asparagus spears creeping their way onto the market shelves has begun. Last year’s highlight was to be served fat, succulent white spears that were first drizzled in a blood-orange flavoured sauce, prepared my good friend, Jennifer and is also a recipe that appears in her soon-to-be-released book, ‘Bitter’. It is always a pleasure to sit at Jennifer’s table at their Parisian home; seemingly effortless food delivered from a skilled chef, dripping with an exact balance of richness, flavour and texture. The biggest compliment that I can offer her was knowing that she was cooking from her previous book, ‘Odd Bits’ and keeping the ingredients a secret until we finished that course; as a child I enjoyed calf’s liver and since then, other than pâté making I have avoided offal at all cost, it’s texture being determined by the skill of the cook. What Jennifer expertly prepared was Ravioli of Calf’s Brains and Morels and it was superb; billowing pasta pillowcases, packed with a delicately smooth, creamy filling. I stand converted.

As a child, I fell in love with tender spears emerald spears of asparagus; a family Sunday lunch at the St. George Hotel at what was then named Teeside Airport in the North Eastern corner of England. A converted RAF Officers Mess, this treat was back before the days of pack-‘em-in-cheap carvery deals and my prevailing memory is of juicy spears that had been carefully poached before drizzling with deliciously light hollandaise sauce.

Specialist equipment isn’t necessary and I often wrap in Serrano ham or such like and oven roast but equally, a stove top grill pan produces a fresh grassy flavour together with attractive charring.

A very easy springtime salad is to half the spear lengthways then char grill for a couple of minutes on each side until al dente. Allow to cool to room temperature; sprinkle with a fruity olive oil (I used porchini infused oil) and shavings of Parmesan before finishing with a scattering of toasted pine nuts.