Given that asparagus has a fairly short season – and April is its peak – I thought it would be remiss of Brenda and I not to show you something made with these perky green spears. This is this quick to make – and feels like a quite exotic dish.
I’ve adapted this from Delia – so you know you’ll be in good hands, if further reassurance is required. This serves 4 and like virtually all other recipes, can be halved/doubled etc, to suit. Allow about 125g asparagus per person. By the way I have roasted the asparagus as I think it keeps in more flavour and is also easier to manage timings-wise; although you can steam or boil yours if you prefer (in which case do it at the end of the process, instead of towards the beginning, as per below)
500g asparagus – just gently bend, and the spears will snap off at the natural divide between the woody “end” which you discard and the tender part you use.
2 large eggs – separated with the yolks in one medium glass bowl and the whites in another
1 dstspn white wine vinegar
1dstspn lemon juice
pinch sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
Switch the oven on to 200°C and place a knob of butter into an oven dish or tray with sides, just big enough to hold your asparagus spears in a singe layer. Season lightly.
In a small pan, place the 100g butter on the heat and begin to melt gently.
Using an electric whisk, beat the egg whites till light and fluffy – the soft peaks stage is great (you’re not making a meringue so don’t go mad but don’t worry if you do, it won’t really matter…). Leave momentarily to one side.
Place a medium pan containing just an inch or so of water on the hob which should reach no more than a gentle simmer. Place the glass bowl containing the yolks over the pan – season with a pinch of sea salt and a little ground pepper and whisk using the same beaters that you’ve just done your egg whites with. After not much more than a minute, the mix will have turned lighter and already be quite foamy, so you can now go ahead and add the lemon juice and vinegar – continue whisking for another 30 seconds or so.
By this time, the butter should have completely melted (take off the heat if done before as you don’t want it going brown or burning). If you need to enlist a friend, great, but the idea is to add the butter fairly gradually (a bit like making mayo) so it doesn’t all split. So long that you’re fairly deft about it, start with a few tablespoons of the butter and whisk in immediately. Keep going adding butter and whisking in – I suppose I combined all the butter into the yolks in about 5 cycles over around 2 mins.
Continue whisking for another 30 seconds or so and take the bowl off the pan of simmering water.. Take about a quarter of the egg whites and whisk into the yolk/butter mixture for just a few seconds, then again for half of the remaining egg white and then the other half (i.e. 3 cycles). You should have a gorgeously smooth, pale yellow, light but creamy and foamy sauce ready to apply to the asparagus. The bowl containing it can be placed back in the pan of water to keep warm (but the water pan should itself be off the heat)
All of the above takes around 12 mins which is the point where you need to check the asparagus for doneness. It should still be bright green and tender, but not soft. Return for another 2-3 mins if it’s still a bit firm.
Turn out onto a warmed serving dish and coat generously with the sauce and sprinkle with black pepper. Yum.