Ah asparagus, it’s delicious, it’s nutritious, and it’s in season right now. This pointy little vegetable takes three years to grow to its first harvest, but can keep producing yearly for around 15 years after, making it an excellent investment for the patient gardener.
But you don’t have to spend years growing your own, as there’s excellent asparagus in the farmer’s markets and shops right now. There’s many ways to cook asparagus, it’s a veggie that can be excellent roasted, raw, steamed or pan fried, so this month we’ll be going through a great recipe for every form of asparagus you could want.
As a former resident of Berlin, I was introduced to the deliciousness of asparagus through the famed Beelitzer Spargel, a white asparagus that gets its colour from being painstakingly grown in the dark.
The residents of Berlin go mad for it in early summer, scoffing great quantities in every form imaginable. By far the most popular method for serving it is the traditional Beelitzer way. The asparagus is pan fried until tender-crisp, then drizzled with a home made hollandaise and sometimes served with a delicious slice of german ham. It’s an early summer dish that’s to die for.
This week, I’ll walk you step by step through the traditional recipe, then show you my own take on it, where the rich sometimes-food hollandaise is replaced by a protein filled, tangy, light and delicious garlic yogurt sauce.
Pan Frying Asparagus
- Wash, peel and trim the tough, woody bottoms off your asparagus. If it’s fresh enough, you can actually bend the stalks and have them snap precisely at the point you need, which is a fun party trick for all those parties where you carry around fresh asparagus.
- Zest a lemon, then mix it with some of the lemon juice.
- Warm butter, rapeseed oil or olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. I love some cold pressed highland rapeseed oil or organic butter personally.
- Once the oil is hot, add the asparagus, the zest-juice mix, salt, and pepper, stir quickly to combine, then cover the pan and let it cook for 5-6 minutes.
- Check the asparagus, you want it slightly browned and a little crispy on the outside, but slightly tender. Take care not to overcook it, as overcooked asparagus can get a little stringy.
Voila! You’ve got some delicious, simple asparagus, this dish is excellent as a side, on its own, or tossed with a bit of garlic or chilli at the end, but we’re going to take things one step further by making our own hollandaise.
Home Made Hollandaise
- 2 egg yolks, separated.
- 1 cup butter, warm and melted.
- 1 lemon.
- Salt and Pepper.
- A dash of smoked paprika.
- Zest your lemon, then squeeze out the juice. A little bit of lemon zest in a hollandaise adds a lovely note of bright sweetness to balance out all the rich savoury flavour of the egg and butter base. Set these two aside.
- Separate your egg yolks and crack into a bowl and beat them thoroughly with a fork or whisk.
- Beat in your lemon juice and zest.
- Now here’s the trickiest part of a hollandaise, there’s two methods to emulsify your sauce, the traditional method requires a whisk and a lot of elbow grease, the easy method uses an immersion blender. While either whisking or blending the eggs, slowly drizzle in the warm butter. Make sure not to go too fast, as you’ll break the sauce if you do. As long as you take things slow and steady, you should be fine, especially using the blender method. Add in the smoked paprika at the end, and give it one last mix.
- Now that your sauce is nicely blended, it’s time to thicken and pasteurize it. The traditional method uses a double boiler or bain marie to heat the sauce on the stove, to do this, set up your double boiler and heat the sauce gently for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly as you do, it should thicken slightly without breaking or scrambling.
5b. The less traditional, but much easier method is to microwave the sauce on low for 2 minutes, stopping every twenty seconds to stir with a fork. It’s a lot less risky, and just as go
Garlic yogurt sauce
For those of you looking for a lighter sauce, I’ve prepared one of my favourite recipes. I love using an organic live goat yogurt they sell in several shops in Edinburgh, including Real Foods and Sainsburies, but it works well with any yogurt.
- 200ml Yogurt
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Lemon
- A drizzle of olive or rapeseed oil (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard.
- Salt and Pepper
- Crush and dice your garlic finely. Zest the lemon, then squeeze the juice into a bowl.
- Pour the Yogurt into a mixing bowl. If you’re using a thick, high protein yogurt like greek yogurt, I recommend blending in a drizzle of oil to loosen it up a little bit.
- Blend in the lemon juice, zest, garlic, salt, pepper and mustard, whisk until combined.
- (optional) Very gently warm the sauce on a double boiler or in the microwave, using a similar method to the hollandaise, you want it just warm enough to complement the asparagus nicely, there’s no need to cook it.
And there you have it! Line up your asparagus like little soldiers on a plate, lay some gentle blankets of german speck or black forest ham over them if you’d like, and drizzle on your sauce of choice. This is an excellent little brunch or lunch for a lazy sunday.