Rose Prince’s asparagus recipes
Nothing is sadder than limp, overcooked asparagus, and nothing more joyful than a fresh green spear plucked from the ground and dunked in hollandaise. Rose Prince on asparagus for beginners. Photography and styling by Yuki Sugiura. Food styling by Valerie
WHEN I WAS A child, I could not see the point of asparagus. When, every April, my parents brought home the season’s first bunches of paperwrapped spears from the greengrocer’s (of course), I wondered how adults could get so excited about the fat, leafless stalks with their pointed budding tops. Greens were greens, to me. Something to be endured, hidden under a fork, even fed to a dog lurking under the table – not always successful, depending on the greed of the particular pet.
Appreciation began with the butter. A vegetable drenched in melting, salty butter had to have something going for it, I decided. Then there was the discovery of hollandaise sauce – this has promise, I agreed. There was a tendency for cooks to slightly overcook asparagus then, often through using that pointless wedding present, the asparagus steamer. Left a moment too long in enveloping, scorching vapour, the heads of asparagus spears flop lifelessly.
When my mother began to grow her own, however, a three-year build-up to a productive asparagus bed, I finally got it. Just picked, the stalks still have all the sugars that gradually turn to starch through storage. Picking them, I bit off a raw head of a small spear and sugary juice sprang out of it. Cooked for just five minutes, still green and perky, finally I found the beauty of this uniquely flavoured vegetable and cannot wait for the season to begin.