Not so much of a recipe as a serving suggestion with of course instructions how to make it. All I’ve done here is take some of my flavours to combine with white asparagus and paired them up. It’s a lot simpler than getting all hot and bothered with Hollandaise sauce!
Ingredients for 4 servings 4 or 5 large white asparagus spears per person, cleaned, peeled and with the woody end of about 2.5cm / 1in removed.
20gr / 0.7oz. unsalted butter
8 large eggs for poaching
600gr / 1.3lb. x hot smoked salmon
1 x tbsp olive oil
4 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
500gr / 1.1 lb wild spinach, washed and woody stems removed. Chop roughly.
Salt and black pepper to taste
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the butter, let it melt and drop the asparagus in to cook for about 7 minutes. Make sure the pan is large enough and has enough water in it to give the asparagus enough room to cook. Check if they are cooked after 5 minutes by inserting a sharp knife into the thickest part of the asparagus. When they are ready there should still be a little resistance. Asparagus are best cooked al dente.
Dry off the spinach with a clean tea towel to remove most of the excess water after washing. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, or you can do this in a larger soup/stock pan that will hold the spinach. The heat should be medium high. Add the garlic and cook for about 20 seconds (don’t let it colour and certainly not burn), then add as much spinach as you can and toss it in the garlic until it starts to wilt. Keep adding the spinach until it has all wilted. Remove the pan from the heat, check for seasoning before serving.
The best way to poach eggs is to boil water in the kettle, pour it into a nice sized pan so that your eggs have room to move (I tend to poach in batches of two or three). Add a pinch of salt and keep the water just under boiling – you shouldn’t see any bubbles. Add a dessert spoonful of vinegar (doesn’t matter which, but colourless is best). Make sure your eggs are fresh and at room temperature. Stir the water to create a whirlpool effect and break the eggs into it. Cook for about 3 minutes or until set then remove with a slotted spoon and drain off on a tea towel or kitchen paper.
Once all your elements are ready, arrange them on your plates and break the salmon over the top.
Tips and Variations
Serve with some boiled potatoes with some good quality mayonnaise and mustard on the side.
The season for white asparagus is quite short, running from mid/end April to the end of June (depending on each season’s weather).
You can do this with green asparagus too and cold smoked salmon.
If I have a bigger group of people I tend to soft boil eggs instead of poaching – it’s just a bit easier.
Huge confession, I’m not really into white asparagus. Eek! I know, that makes me almost an outcast in the Netherlands – the Dutch are obsessed with it, but well, I can take it or leave it. But, I don’t hate it and I’m always up for a challenge so when the short season comes around I normally have a go preparing and cooking it in a different way. One of this years successes has been these little crisps – it’s a really tasty combination, but make sure you get a bit of both ingredients in every bite for maximum effect.
They’re a really nice canapé idea for any gathering, especially if you are going the whole hog and preparing a celebratory white asparagus menu. Serve with a nice glass of Pinot auxerrois, a little sweet with a little bubble from the Alsace.
A Celebration of White Asparagus: My Recipe Collection
Or, what I’ve learnt about the white stuff since living in The Netherlands. Or, I really have tried my best to integrate, even in the kitchen. Or, If you can’t beat them join them.
Nobody can say I haven’t tried my best with white asparagus, with every recipe I have come just that little bit closer to understanding the Dutch obsession with it. I’ve done everything except cook it standing on my head! So, here is my (current) definitive list to getting the best out of the seriously short season.
Oh, don’t worry, you can of course use green asparagus for these recipes too.
Ok, so I am completely out of my comfort zone with this classic sauce. It has been on my list to try for ages, but you know how it is when you are a bit nervous about trying something. There’s always something else, something more important (or so you tell yourself) to do first. Anyway, no excuses – I went for it. Not as scary as I thought as it turns out. The only thing is, I forgot to take a photo – ended up diving in and scoffing the lot before I took pics, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Serves 4 4 or five spears of white asparagus. Peeled and with about the first cm of the stem trimmed off.
800gr of potatoes (new potatoes are best) boiled in their skins.
300 to 400gr of good quality thinly sliced ham from your butcher.
For the Hollandaise Sauce (serves about 4 to 6, this is based on Leith’s Cookery method)
Ingredients for the Reduction 6 tbsp white wine vinegar
12 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves For the rest of the sauce 4 egg yolks
Salt and a touch of white pepper
225g of unsalted butter in little cubes (makes it easier to add bit by bit)
Juice of about half a lemon
Start by putting the potatoes in cold water and bringing them to the boil. To check when they are ready, pierce the largest potato, or part of potato in the pan with a sharp knife, there should be no resistance.
Get all the ingredients and materials ready to make the Hollandaise sauce.
You can start to cook the asparagus once the potatoes are about half way cooked.
Making Hollandaise Sauce
To make the reduction, place the ingredients in a saucepan and reduce until the quantity becomes about 1.5tbsp. Then strain the reduction into a cold container.
To make the sauce, cream the egg yolks, a cube of the butter, a pinch of salt and ½ tsp of the reduction in a small to medium heatproof bowl until thick. The best way to do this is with a hand mixer.
Set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure that the bowl does not touch the water. This is a “bain-marie”. Stir the mixture, keep it moving with a wooden spoon. It is important that the heat is kept gentle as you do not want to scramble the eggs.
Then beat the butter in, a couple of the little cubes at a time. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon. If at any time you feel it is getting too hot, just remove, set on a cool surface and keep stirring.
Each batch of butter should be melted and incorporated into the sauce before adding the next. As you go along you can add more in a batch of butter.
After about half of the butter is added, start to add the reduction in about 2 or 3 batches with the butter as well.
Remove from the heat and stir in the last little bit of butter.
Season with salt, white pepper and lemon juice to taste.
To serve, place the asparagus on each plate, place the potatoes around the outside, drape the ham over the asparagus and generously spoon the Hollandaise over the top.
Tips and Variations
I like to cook the potatoes and the asparagus first so that I can devote all my attention to the Hollandaise.
The Hollandaise looks a lot more complicated than is actually is, I would definitely give it a try as it is such a delicious silky smooth and perfect accompaniment which brings the whole dish together.
Once the Hollandaise is ready, you can add a few sprigs of chopped tarragon leaves, this works very well and you have now created a Bernaise sauce!
Hollandaise sauce does not keep well and should be served straight away.
If your Hollandaise splits (looks like the butter has split out from the sauce), remove from the heat, add a couple of teaspoons of water and stir, this is like magic and brings the sauce back again.
Use fresh eggs at room temperature for the sauce.
Make the sauce in ceramic, glass or a steel bowl.
If you don’t fancy trying the Hollandaise sauce, you can also serve the asparagus with some melted butter over the top. I like to serve this version with one soft boiled egg, halved per person ( a poached egg is also good. This gives you a sort of de-constructed Hollandaise, so you get some of the flavour, but without the texture and it’s also easier.
12 large white asparagus, peeled and the bottom 1.5 cm removed
50gr of toasted pine nuts (you can toast them in a non-stick pan – be careful to keep an eye on them)
2 x spring onions chopped finely.
4 medium tomatoes, chopped into little cubes (make sure they are ripe)
6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp of white balsamic vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
To cook the asparagus, place them in a large pan of boiling water for about 7 minutes. Make sure they have plenty of water in which to cook. To check they are ready, just pierce the thickest part with a sharp knife, there should be a slight resistance.
Whilst the asparagus is cooking, mix the olive oil, vinegar, tomato, onion and a little salt and pepper in a bowl to make a dressing. Just mix together with a fork. If you do this before you start to cook the asparagus, the ingredients will give more flavour into the oil.
To serve, drain the asparagus, share out on plates, drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle with the pine nuts.
Tips and Variations
This is a great light alternative to the usual heavy version with Hollandaise sauce or with melted butter and ham.
This can also be served as a side dish to salmon.
Try serving on a bed of seasonal leaves, just lightly dressed with a little extra virgin oil and white balsamic.
If you don’t have white balsamic vinegar, you can use white wine vinegar (add a tsp of honey to this version) or normal dark coloured balsamic vinegar, if you don’t mind the colour.
Works well with green asparagus as well, although you will need more spears per portion. I love to dress this version with some shards of parmesan or a sprinkling of crumbled soft goat’s cheese.