English asparagus is the best in the world. Our cool climate ensures a slow growth, which allows an intense flavour to develop. The season is short, lasting about six weeks, so make the most of it. Fresh asparagus needs little more than 3 minutes in boiling salty water, a squeeze of lemon and a knob of butter. It is also delicious grilled and served with hollandaise sauce; the lovely smoky taste combines perfectly with the rich, lemony sauce.
There is a lot of fuss surrounding the making of hollandaise sauce. At first glance it seems fiddly and tricky but it is in essence a fairly simple emulsion sauce. Whisk the yolks in a bowl over simmering water until they reach the ribbon stage; this is when the mix is thick enough that if you lift up the whisk and draw a number 8, it remains visible for a second. Then slowly whisk in the warm (not hot) melted butter.
Grilled English asparagus with hollandaise sauce – serves 4
- Wash 16 asparagus spears thoroughly, cut off the base and peel the last two thirds. Keep the off-cuts for a stock or sauce. Cook in plenty of lightly salted, vigorously boiling water for about 3 minutes until tender then plunge into very cold water.
- Melt 250 grams of butter. In a large metal bowl whisk 3 egg yolks with a splash of water over a pan of simmering water until thick. Add the butter in a slow, thin stream whisking constantly. If it looks a little thick add a drop of warm water and then continue. Add the juice of ½ a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat a grill pan until very hot.
- Season the asparagus and lightly brush with olive oil. Grill on all sides until nicely charred.
- Serve with the hollandaise sauce.