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Asparagus should give a slight degree of resistance to teeth, which then sink into softer interior. Do not over cook. Whether thin, medium or thick no one wants it limp. Properly cooked, asparagus can be eaten in the traditional way, by hand, each spear dipped into melted butter or warm hollandaise sauce, with no need to remove the tough handle end of the stem. If serving cold, dress with mayonnaise, not hollandaise, as latter separates as it cools. One eats as far as the woody part, sucking the juices out and leaving the stubs on the side of the plate. If using knife and fork, snap off woody end at natural snap point before cooking.​

Cooking time: about 3 minutes

Asparagus spears

Method 1.

The safest way to cook asparagus: place spears in long baking dish, cover with boiling water, seal with plastic film and wrap in a rug to keep warm until everyone is greeted and seated. The asparagus will never be limp by this method, but may be a trifle underdone.

Method 2.

Simmer spears in large open frying pan so they can be easily monitored and removed before any limpness sets in,  before bright green spears change to ugly khaki. Timing varies with thickness. Eat straight away to avoid risk of dish kept warm but spears gone limp - they continue to cook out of water.

Tall asparagus kettles mean thick stem bottoms can boil while tender tips steam. The metal basket takes 500 gm of spears and fits inside a tall narrow saucepan with lid. The basket makes for easy draining, the water can be used for next basket load. Bring water to boil before fitting basket and lid. Turn down heat. Check after three minutes.

Method 3.

Method 4.

Use a plastic fish steamer in microwave oven. Alternatively, put two handfuls, about 500 gm, of spears into a plastic bag with dash of water or olive oil or a tablespoon of butter, then fold over. Cook on high 2.5 minutes and check - longer for thicker stems. Best underdone than overdone as cooking continues for a while.

Method 5.

Professional chefs blanch asparagus, set it aside, and then bring big a saucepan of water to a rolling boil, in which asparagus is cooked to order. Required serves are boiled in potato chip baskets, for quick removal to avoid over-cooking. For cold serves it is chilled immediately in iced water.


These recipes are taken from Carnarvon Cooks and Characters written by Jenny Walsh, published by Access Press ISBN 978-0-86445-208-5

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