How to prep asparagus
Depending on the size of the stalks, you might need to do a little more prep work before you can start cooking. For thin stems, a simple trim of the dry ends is enough. For thicker stalks, however, you might find there’s more of a woody texture at the ends – you can either snap or trim these off. If you find there’s a thick outer skin too, you can remove this delicately using a vegetable peeler, but it isn’t always necessary.
How to cook asparagus
Traditionally, cookery rules will tell you that blanching is the only way to cook asparagus. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with sticking to the classics, there are certainly other cooking methods.
Let’s start with the most obvious option first. To blanch asparagus, bring a small pot of well-salted water to the boil and drop in the stems. Depending on their thickness, this could take anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Keep an eye on them and check them for tenderness once you notice the colour has become bright green. Once you’re happy, remove them from the boiling water and plunge into iced water to stop the cooking process.
The term “sauté” always sounds a little scary, but in theory it’s a version of pan-frying and a great way to cook asparagus. In a small frying pan, heat a few teaspoons of butter or olive oil (or a combination of the two) over a medium-high heat. Place the asparagus spears into the hot butter and cook for 2–3 minutes, tossing continually.
When the sun is out and the braai is going, this must be the best way to cook asparagus. When the fire is nice and hot, lightly coat the asparagus in a bit of olive oil and place directly on the grid. Cook for a couple of minutes, turning regularly so they colour evenly. If you’re not cooking on a braai, you can get the same effect by using a griddle pan over a high heat on the stove.
How to serve asparagus
The best thing about asparagus is that it really doesn’t need much added to it, but there are some sure-fire combinations you can trust. Firstly, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a generous crack of black pepper just before serving might be the ultimate addition. Shavings of Parmesan, or a similar Italian-style hard cheese, also packs a flavour punch. Another classic combination is to serve it alongside Hollandaise (and a poached egg, if you’re feeling extra fancy!). The possibilities are endless really, and anywhere you’d use a hardy green such as kale or broccoli, would likely work with asparagus too.
Ready to tackle asparagus? These are some of our favourite recipes.
Get the recipe for asparagus tarts here.
Asparagus crystal rolls
Charred broccoli and asparagus with prosciutto and boiled eggs