675g (11⁄2lb) bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed
50g (2oz) butter
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 potato, finely diced
900ml (11⁄2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock
175g (6oz) Bellingham Blue cheese, crumbled
100ml (31⁄2fl oz) cream, plus extra to garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
crunchy croutons, to garnish
extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
Bellingham Blue has to be one of the most divine cheeses in the world. Its layers of blue-veined creaminess are both seductively rich and delicate, making it a perfect partner for asparagus. Here I’ve served the soup hot, but it is also delicious chilled.
Cut 5cm (2in) of the tips off the asparagus stalks and simmer them very gently in a pan of boiling salted water for 3–4 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and refresh under cold running water. Set aside. Roughly chop the remaining stalks.
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pan over a medium heat and add the shallots, potato and chopped asparagus stalks. Cover and cook gently for 10 minutes, until softened but not coloured, stirring once or twice. Pour in the stock, season to taste and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are completely tender and the soup has thickened slightly.
Purée the soup with a hand-held blender. Whisk in most of the Bellingham Blue cheese, reserving some for a garnish, and the cream. Season to taste and heat gently, being careful not to let it boil. Serve hot or chilled, ladled into bowls and garnished with the reserved asparagus tips, the rest of the Bellingham Blue cheese and a sprinkling of croutons. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil to finish and add a grinding of black pepper.
Serve with crunchy croutons and cream to garnish.