It may seem as if I've declared October "asparagus month". That's because I love it – and it's in season. In addition to the asparagus sauce in this recipe, you could blanch some asparagus tips to sprinkle over the top. Don't like asparagus? Zucchini cooked the same way is great, adding a little chilli and mint (you can add chilli to the asparagus, too).
4 free-range chicken breasts
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon, plus 1 lemon, quartered, to serve
freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped chervil
For the asparagus sauce
6 large spears asparagus
80ml extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
50g unsalted butter
freshly ground pepper
1. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and season liberally with sea salt.
2. To make the asparagus sauce, cut the asparagus spears into 1cm-thick rounds. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add asparagus along with a good dose of sea salt, and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the asparagus softens. Stir occasionally to ensure the asparagus does not stick to the bottom.
3. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add 1 cup of water and simmer gently for 15 minutes, or until the asparagus is very soft and the water has reduced by at least half.
4. Remove from the heat and purée in a blender; push the sauce through a sieve if you want a silkier texture. Return the purée to the pan and whisk in the butter. Check the seasoning and add a good grind of fresh pepper.
5. Preheat the barbecue to hot. Make sure the grill bars are clean. Brush the chicken breasts with extra virgin olive oil and shake off any excess. Place pieces skin-side down on the grill at a 45-degree angle to the bars. Halfway through cooking on the first side, carefully lift and turn each piece 45 degrees in the other direction, creating a crisscross pattern. When ready, turn the chicken over and finish cooking. This will take about 12-15 minutes all up, depending on the size of the breasts. Remove from the grill, put on a plate and cover with foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes in a warm place.
6. Spoon the asparagus sauce onto four large plates and place the chicken breasts gently on top.
7. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the juices on the resting plate and add the lemon juice, a grind of fresh pepper, parsley and chervil; mix and spoon the dressing over the chicken. Add a wedge of lemon to each plate and serve immediately.
Tip: For a delicious vegan version of this meal, remove the chicken and the butter from the sauce, and serve with steamed potatoes or a large wedge of roast pumpkin, sprinkled with roasted pumpkin seeds or almonds.
If you like this recipe, try Neil's black pepper chilli beef and asparagus stir-fry.