Spargel Zeit, or better still ASPARAGUS TIME

Oh to be in England now that Spring is here! Some of us might actually wonder about that,or as my grandmother once said, “Don’t cast a clout, until May is out” ( do  not put on your summer clothes until June) BUT English Asparagus, is with us. And it is here for such a short period of time, that we really do have to make the most of it.

The season can start as early as April, but is usually best in May and early June, that is if you live in the UK. The English really love  Green Asparagus, however the Germans, French, Dutch, Polish, Spanish and Belgians prefer on the whole thick white asparagus, and indeed in many restaurants in southern Germany , at this time of year it is obligatory to eat Asparagus ( white) so, it could be Steak ( with Asparagus) or Salmon ( with asparagus) and indeed I have been in such a restaurant, where one of our number, did not care at all for Spargle ( as it is called) and asked to have his steak served plain, and they refused!!

These days, we can get fresh asparagus year round, with it being imported from as far away as Peru and China. Indeed China is the worlds largest producer of green asparagus, growing up to 7 million tonnes a year. Peru grows about 3.5 million tonnes, just think of all of those air miles! But the appetite in the west for green asparagus, has become insatiable.

There is evidence that the world has been eating Asparagus since about 3000 BC and it arrived in the New World in the mid 1850’s. It is well-known for its medicinal properties as well as being a diruetic.It apparently dissolves Uric Acid ( which causes gout) and South Korean scientists have found that it can also cure hangovers!

Asparagus is made up of about 92% water, is low in calories and sodium, contains Vitamins A, B , C, E and K, rich in dietary fiber and essential minerals. Is also an antioxident.Apparently the water in which asparagus has been cooked, makes a good face wash/cleanser. Umm not sure about that one! And of course, it makes your pee smell!! Uhh!!!

White and green asparagus, are the same vegetable, the difference is the way in which they are grown. White asparagus is grown in rows with the earth piled up to keep them covered   ( a bit like growing potatoes) whereas green asparagus is grown about 20-25 cms above soil level and then cut.

So how to eat it?

It is very easy to prepare, rinse in cold water and either bend the ends ( not the spear end) until they snap , but I usually cut them off. The universally accepted way of cooking them is to steam them but I microwave them with excellent results. I wrap the spears in either micro-wavable cling film or micro-wavable plastic bags and Microwave on high, 15 spears take  4 mins, to be al Dente. Serve with scrambled egg  and smoked salmon, perfect! sophisticated supper and fast!

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Or how about with a quick hollandaise sauce, again this is do-able in the microwave, ( with a little caution)

113 grams ( 4 oz) butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (to taste) ( or bottled)Directions:
Put butter in a Microwave safe container. Microwave 30 sec. on high, until butter is soft but not melted. (This may take up to 60 seconds if the butter is cold from the fridge.). Be careful, if you M/W too high  for too long, you will have a mess in the Microwave as it will spit!
In a small bowl, mix egg and lemon juice together well.
Add mixture to softened butter.
Microwave on high, stopping to whisk every 15 sec. ( this is where a microwave whisk comes in handy, as you can leave it in the jug)
The mixture WILL be lumpy for the first two whippings. Sauce is done when smooth and thick. Do not over work.
Or how about  Grilled asparagus with brown butter ( Beurre Noisette) and browned almonds
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Use thick asparagus, carefully peel the ends, lightly oil a grill pan, I use a Le Creuset pan, and when it is hot place the asparagus on the pan, turning until the aspargus is tender. In another pan, melt some butter ( I prefer unsalted), and heat and melt until it begins to brown, add a handful of sliced almonds, a quick swish around in the  pan and pour over the asparagus and serve immediately.
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or this is one of my favourites, Chunky Asparagus, dipped in egg and then Panko Breadcrumbs ( Japanese breadcrumbs) sautéed in a mixture of butter and olive oil, drained on paper towel and served at once with grated parmesan..
Or another really simple way of serving skinny asparagus, and this works year round, as some of the imported asparagus will be of the skinny type.
Stir fried Asparagus with cherry tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, a chopped, de-seeded red chili ( optional)
  • 100g cherry tomatoes
  • bunch of asparagus
  • To begin, put a Wok or  large frying pan over medium heat with some olive oil. Press the garlic and add to the pan with the chili.
  • On a chopping board, trim the ends of the asparagus, and chop the asparagus into 2 inch-long pieces.
  • Add the asparagus into the pan along , and cook for 5 minutes or so until the asparagus is tender, Add the cherry tomatoes , cook for another 5 minutes.. Done!photo(13)
And finally Asparagus served with a poached egg BUT not an ordinary poached egg but one  that is coated in Panko Breadcrumbs
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Line a small dish or egg cup with cling film, lightly grease the cling film. Pop in the egg, and tie up with string. Pop the egg parcel into boiling water and lightly poach/cook until the white looks cooked, ( about 2 mins.) remove from the water and cool on a bowl of ice. When cool unwrap the egg and dip into  beaten egg and the panko breadcrumbs. At this point they maybe refrigerated until ready to serve, Heat a pan with oil ready for deep frying, when it is hot enough ( test with a piece of bread, if it bubbles up straight away, the oil is hot enough) Pop in the egg and it will very quickly turn golden brown, remove from the oil with a slotted spoon, and drain on kitchen paper, serve with the steamed asparagus. here you see two pictures of this, one is from a professional kitchen and the other, one that my son cooked the other day.photo(18) photo(19)
So enjoy English Asparagus, whilst it is around,  because, here today, but gone soon. But of course, other types of asparagus, is with us all year round!

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