In The Go-Between, L. P. Hartley described the past as a foreign country, where they do things differently. I have a feeling author Laura Mason might not find the concept so convincing.

In her lengthy introduction to The National Trust Farmhouse Cookbook, published in 2005, Mason offers a timely call to arms. Easily overlooked whilst browsing for nostalgic recipes, and unexpectedly forthright given the matter-of-fact title affirmed by her laconic client; this is a candid and delightful cookbook that belies its outwardly hand-woven persona.

“As far as farmhouse cookery is concerned, it could be argued that farmers, like other people, rely on supermarkets for food. In the 21st century the idea of farmhouse cookery embraces a series of vague notions involving Aga cookers and bunches of cut herbs gathering dust. Farmers’ wives, diminishing in numbers along with farmers themselves, are more likely to be working in towns several miles away than making cheese and butter, raising poultry or preserving fruit. The cooking traditions of the countryside were gradually eroded by urbanization in the 19th century, and then bastardised by the expediencies of rationing during the Second World War. They have been further diluted by supermarkets and disowned by most cookery writers.”

Well if you thought you were in for yet another riff on courgette chutney, the warming glow of the sock-draped Aga coupled with a side order of pastoral well being, you would be mistaken.

She spreads the net wider, “the English school of ‘plain cooking’at its best, the effect is a rustic simplicity of the type much admired when encountered in France or Italy, but belittled at home.”

Idealised peasant dishes that fill the pages of Provencal or Tuscan recipe books presumably remind some folk of rural second homes, their lengthy sojourns in Chiantishire  or Peter Mayle’s airport novellas and are perceived as infinitely more romantic, or should I say à la mode, than home-grown, homemade cuisine. It appears that unless a dish is strewn with pomegranate seeds, rocket leaves, Niçoise olives or blended with ‘Nduja, it is all too easily dismissed as a twee bygone, something abandoned by an earlier generation, barely worth a full colour plate in a spin-off TV cookbook.

But here we have a substantive addition to the home cook’s mis en place and distanced by a proverbial country mile from drop scones, tea-shop quiches, rustic soups and oak-leaved oven gloves. Instead, each recipe affirms the inexorable link between landscape and food. Abandon that perennial idea, as more recently fashionable evidence suggests, and we do so at our peril.

Included below is one of many no-nonsense photographs from Laura’s no-nonsense recipe book. Free of acorn-liveried irony, the graphic content might almost originate from an artisan boulangerie in St Germain-de-Prés rather than the tea-rooms of Derbyshire’s Hardwick Hall.  Yet for those requiring an international sheen, the recipe has that in spades. But given our short, precious English season of green asparagus, the dish remains unashamedly home-grown and a welcome portrayal of our nation’s food ways. A brief respite from the Mediterranean tendencies of so many contemporary cookbooks.

Asparagus Tartlets from The National Trust Farmhouse Cookbook (2005) Laura Mason

500g asparagus

30g butter, plus a little extra

Salt and pepper

2 egg yolks

1 quantity of shortcrust pastry

Wash and trim the asparagus stems, cutting off the hard ends of the stalks.

Place asparagus in a pan and just cover with boiling water, simmer until the stems are tender

Drain, then cut the tips off and resrve

Put the rest in a processor and reduce to a puree

Beat in the butter and season, stir in the egg yolks

Roll out the pastry thinly and use to line patty tins

Divide the asparagus mixture between them

Decorate with the reserved tips and dot with butter

Bake at 190C/375F for about 15 minutes

Serve warm

Wine thoughts

A well tried and faultless combination is the marriage of asparagus with the crisp, herbaceous flavours so frequently found in Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon’s original heartland is the Loire valley, where  dry, aromatic wines are common. Although this green, racy style has many followers, I think this dish would benefit from the piercing intensity of ripe, tropical fruit, coaxed from the grape variety in its new home in New Zealand. At the north end of South Island sits Marlborough, now vying to become the world’s Sauvignon Blanc capital. This unsurprisingly irks some winemakers back in Sancerre, however I suspect both styles will continue to provide exciting, food-friendly wines, although the cuisine they partner is not likely to be exclusively French either. Where’s Asterix the Gaul when they need him most?