Green British asparagus, with its intense, complex
flavour, is considered – by the British, at least – to be the finest in the world. It’s deep, verdant flavour is attributed in large part to Britain’s cool growing conditions. ( The green asparagus are better served hot with chicken, veal and soup).
White asparagus preferred in Europe ( France and Germany) has a delicate flavour and must first be peeled before use. Trim the woody ends and starting from the bottom and using a vegetable peeler, peel a very thin strip toward the tip. Often, only the lower half need to be peeled. (The white asparagus are better served warm or cold with hollandaise & mayonnaise sauce.
When cooking asparagus, you can tie them into little bundles, which makes them easier to remove. Drop these bundles or individual spears into some boiling water, cover and cook for three to five minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Take them out, drain and plunge into some ice-cold water, or serve straight away.
To steam, place the spears in a steaming basket with a little water underneath. Cover and cook for three minutes.
Asparagus loves to be griddled in a pan – simply drizzle with a little olive oil and turn occasionally or try Jamie’s recipe for griddled asparagus with olive oil, lemon and Parmesan.
Asparagus is often used in Asian cooking, either in salads or in stir-fries. It needs only a minute or so in a hot wok, so always remember to add it in towards the end of cooking the rest of your dish. A splash of soy and a sprinkle of sesame seeds work well.
My favorite ! is It would be a crime not to mention hollandaise – a classic French sauce made of melted butter, fresh egg yolks, lemon juice and a little mustard or a pinch of cayenne – the pairing of which with asparagus is simply heavenly.