Saturday, 15 March 2008

Cooking - Asparagus

growing spargel

Today I cooked asparagus. Asparagus is a strange vegetable and I know it cannot be bought everywhere. It grows in Switzerland in certain areas near a place called Kerzers. The best asparagus apparently comes from Alsace in France, although today you get it imported from all over the place. The season starts late March and goes through to about May. I notice the season starts earlier every year. The price seems to depend on the weather allowing more or less to be harvested. As you can see from the pictures it is a strange plant. It makes nice leaves, and indeed you can buy asparagus as an indoor plant, but the actual life takes place underground in the earth. I am no expert, but the asparagus sticks grow upright in the piled up earth. If you are a gourmet, and really want to do things properly, then you would only eat asparagus that has been pulled out of the earth on the same day as you eat it. I am not a gourmet (in my family we eat to live and not the opposite) so I buy it in the local supermarket. They were selling it for 11.50 Swiss francs for a bunch weighing one kilo, so I bought 2 kilo for 3 people. If one more was at the table I would have bought 3 kilo. When I paid for it at the till the lady said that looks like nice asparagus, I wonder where it comes from. My curiosity was awakened and we found to be from Peru. Now how fast and well it arrived in the Swiss supermarket from Peru I don't know, but I didn't ask questions. So here is today's evening meal.


First of all the ingredients. On the right the asparagus and on the left the meat we eat with it. Ham and a special dried ham from the Grisons part of Switzerland. I am doing things the local way, but I am sure each country would have its own meat to suit. I have butter and a lemon ready and the packet with Sauce Hollandaise written on it is the sauce to eat with the asparagus. There again a gourmet would be shocked to see that I make my sauce hollandaise from a ready mixture. I have made my own, but I never really saw the point. I had a husband and two hungry growing boys to feed - they ate quicker than I could cook and it was just not worth it. Making a sauce hollandaise takes time and patience.


The next step is to cut the ends off the asparagus. The ends are supposed to be important. From these you can see if the asparagus is fresh. If they are dried out that is not supposed to be so good, and the ends are a bit tough to leave on.


The next part is to peel the asparagus. I usually do it with a potato peeler starting from just under the heads (never peel the heads, that is the best part) to the bottom. I then put the peeled asparagus into some water in case there is any grit left on them from the earth. A super housewife would save the peelings to make an asparagus soup.


In the meanwhile I have put a large pan half filled with water on to boil. When the water boils I squeeze half a lemon into it, add about half a teaspoon of salt and butter. The lemon juice makes sure that the asparagus stays a light colour. I am not sure about the butter, but butter is always good.


I would say that 30 minutes is long enough to cook the asparagus. A test is to prod it with a knife at the bottom part of the asparagus. If it goes through easily then it is cooked.


When the asparagus is cooked then drain off the water. As asparagus keeps a lot of the water I find it advisable to put it on the turned off cooking range to help to reduce the remaining water in the asparagus. Just to let it evaporate a bit.


I now make the sauce hollandaise according to instructions on the packet. I buy mine in the local supermarket. According to my youngest son it's the best one. Although he doesn't live at home any more, his presence is felt. I put 250 deciliter milk in a pan and empty the powder from the packet into it. Then stir with a whisk over the heat until it boils. When it starts to boil and gets quite think I melt 50 grammes of butter in it whisking all the time and that's all there is to it.


And there we have our evening meal ready to be eaten. Asparagus is something a bit different, but in Switzerland it is eaten a lot when in season. It was quite a custom at home to have it for Saturday evening meal, but by the time May came along I think we had all had enough. As I have said before, I am not an expert cook, just enjoy cooking and I don't believe so much in recipes but trying things out according to your own tastes. So, as we say in Switzerland - en gute.

Deutsch: Ich habe bewusst keine deutsche Übersetzung gemacht. Ich bin sicher, dass ich muss keine deutscher sagen oder zeigen wie man Spargel macht, und ich bin auch sicher das jeder hat seine Rezept was meine in Schatten lasst. Für irgenwelche Verbesserungsvorshlage bin ich auch dankbar.


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