“Is there anything finer or more elegant than steamed asparagus spears with warm butter and salt? I think not. But this recipe adds a little more flavour to this classic dish in the form of hollandaise sauce. It can be a bit tricky to master, but well worth the effort. If you can whisk cream, you can make hollandaise! It’s a temporary emulsion - unlike a mayonnaise that’s a permanent emulsion - so it mustn’t get too hot or too cold. Don’t buy the jars or packets, have a go at this.”
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
4 to 6 spears per person
100ml white wine
100ml cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 shallot, peeled and finely sliced
3 egg yolks
150g to 200g unsalted and clarified warm butter
Juice of half a lemon
Good salt and pepper
Watercress and radish to serve with
To prepare the asparagus, trim the bottom of each spear then blanch in salted, boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Refresh in cold water if you wish to chargrill or barbecue.
Add the wine, vinegar, bay, shallot, peppercorns and thyme to a small pot and bring to the boil on a moderate heat. Reduce the liquid until two tablespoons remain. Strain.
Place the egg yolks in a clean metal bowl and add a tablespoon of the reduced liquid and whisk.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and place the metal bowl over the pot, ensuring the water doesn’t come into contact with the bowl. Whisk quickly as the egg yolks gently cook. Use an electric whisk if you prefer. Increase the speed until the egg yolk mix is light, frothy and thick. This will take around 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and continue to gently whisk as you trickle in the warm, clarified butter in a steady stream. The volume will increase and it will start to resemble hollandaise sauce. Season with lemon juice and salt, and maybe pepper. This sauce will split easily, so don’t get it too hot or cold.
To serve, season the asparagus and divide between two warmed plates. Top with the hollandaise and garnish with a few watercress leaves and slices of radish.