The new season for British Asparagus arrives in late April; a highlight of the foodie calendar and one greeted with greedy anticipation by everyone in this household.
A perfect fat bunch of those tender green spears needs little more than a gentle boil or steam for a couple of minutes and is best served as simply as possible. Salt, pepper and a drizzle of melted butter is perfect, but if you want to go a step further and serve up something truly special, worthy of the freshest fat bunch you can find then try this lime and mint hollandaise. It’s a gorgeous lunch for a warm day or an elegant, simple starter. You can keep the hollandaise warm over a pan of hot(ish) water or an easier way is just to put it into a thermos flask (you will have heated it first with boiling water). It will keep well in there for a couple of hours.
A useful tip when preparing your asparagus is to take the stem, holding it at each end and snap in half. It will break perfectly at the point where the stem is no longer tender.
ASPARAGUS with a LIME AND MINT HOLLANDAISE
Two bunches of fresh British asparagus
2 free range egg yolks
110g unsalted butter
A little boiling water
Handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
First make the hollandaise.
Take a bowl and put in the egg yolks. Cut the butter into small chunks. Add a couple of teaspoons of cold water and whisk well. Sit the pan over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk the yolks for a couple of minutes. Then slowly add the butter, a piece of two at a time. The sauce will start to form, thin at first and then thickening up as the yolks start to cook. As you add the butter just be sure that the pan doesn’t get too hot. You should always be able to touch the bottom of the bowl with your hand with.
Keep whisking, adding the butter. As it starts to get very thick add a teaspoon or two of boiling water and whisk that in. Add salt and pepper and squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Taste and add more until you have the right balance. Keep whisking until you have a smooth, glossy and thick hollandaise. Put to one side while you cook your asparagus.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus and cook for two to three minutes depending on the thickness of your stems. Put the thickest in first.
Drain well (keep a little of the asparagus water if you can) and season. Shake in a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and toss through.
Back to your hollandaise. If it is still quite thick you can add in a little of the asparagus water. Stir through your finely chopped mint leaves and serve with the warm asparagus and some crusty bread. Delicious!