Sunday, May 13, 2012

It's Spargelzeit in my Munich kitchen

April until June is Spargelzeit (asparagus time) in Germany and all over the country roadside stalls and open air markets sell fresh white asparagus and strawberries at a fraction of supermarket prices. It is a real highlight on the foodie calendar and after trying white asparagus with potatoes and Hollandaise sauce at a few beer gardens in Munich, I decided it was time to cook it myself.

The oldest recipe book that our world has record of, the Roman Apicius, holds a recipe for asparagus. Throughout the ages this vegetable has been esteemed for its aphrodisiac and diuretic properties, but it is also packed with a host of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.

"But we don't have the right pot," said my new housemate. Tall and narrow pots are used for cooking asparagus, allowing the shoots to steam and keeping the tips out of the water. Apicius himself recommended that asparagus be cooked in an upright bunch so that the harder part of the stalks will be ready at the same time as the tender heads. I couldn't wait to buy a pot and saw an aspiring chef on a German cooking show boil them in a big round pot. That was my ticket to give it a go ohne Spargeltopf (without the asparagus pot). With apologies to Apicius.

So I peeled, washed and dried the plump white asparagus that I found on the market at Marienplatz and boiled them in a big pot of water, with lots of salt, some sugar and a quartered orange. Once they started looking transparent, I knew they were ready.

At first taste my asparagus was tender and full of flavour. Above expectation, they were also perfectly peeled, a worthy effort, as this means no chewy, woody stalks. I enjoyed my asparagus the traditional way, with boiled, peeled potatoes and ham. The buttery sauce is what gives the meal that extra magic - here's the easy Hollandaise recipe I used:

Simple Hollandaise fΓΌr Spargel

125g unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
A squeeze of fresh lemon/orange juice
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Melt butter over medium-high heat.

Blend egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper on high for about 30 seconds.

Slowly add the melted butter into the egg yolk mixture.

Continue blending until all the butter is added and the sauce thickens.

Serve with asparagus and indulge!

The difference between white and green asparagus?

White asparagus is also referred to as 'white gold' in northwestern Europe and is cultivated under the ground so that the stalks do not come into contact with light, thus avoiding photosynthesis. The result is a more tender, milder consistency and taste compared to the green version that pushes through the ground into the light.


Susan said...

Mmmm, I can't wait to try your easy hollandaise recipe!

@wordnomad said...