Asparagus with ham, cooked egg, butter and parsley potatoes is the traditional Dutch way of serving white asparagus.
By Ena Scheerstra
White asparagus of very high quality are grown in the Netherlands, mainly in the Southern part, but the last decade asparagus farms can also be found in other parts of the country. The season is short, from the second half of April to the 24th of June, so at the moment asparagus are right in season. Because of the labour intensive method of growing and harvesting them and the small period of time they can be harvested, they are quite expensive, ranging from 8 to 12 euro per kilo. Actually nowadays asparagus can be bought the whole year, being imported from Peru. But the real deal is much better, Dutch asparagus deserve their nickname “white gold”, and freshness is very important for good asparagus. You can obtain the freshest asparagus by buying them directly from a farmer, they usually sell asparagus that are harvested that day. You can tell a fresh asparagus by its sheen, cutting surfaces that are not dried out and the squeaky sound they make when rubbed together.
Thicker asparagus are considered better, because asparagus need to be peeled really well to prevent them being tough and woody. With a thicker asparagus you will have more asparagus left after peeling. Also the bottom part is always cut of, because it is woody. It would be a shame to let these tasteful parts go to waste, therefore I always prepare a soup from them to serve as starter. Serving asparagus with cooked ham, cooked egg, molten butter and parsley potatoes is the traditional way of eating them, because these mellow, creamy flavours combine well with the asparagus. But they do well in all sorts of dishes, their taste is distinct, but very soft and delicate, so combining them with very strong flavours would be a waste. There are many restaurants in the Netherlands that serve asparagus in season in many different ways.
I think messing with the classics often doesn’t improve the dish, so I will stay with the classics. And I think it is blasphemy to buy asparagus that are kept artificially from spoiling flown in from Peru when you have such beautiful produce in your own country. You just have to be patient…. And with only eating asparagus in season, you will definitely not get bored of them!
- 500g (18oz) asparagus
- 3 eggs, cooked and quartered
- 100g (3.5oz) cooked ham, in slices
- 100g (3.5oz) butter, molten
- 400g (14oz) potatoes
- few sprigs of parsley
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 125ml (1/2 cup) milk or cream
- chopped parsley
- Cover asparagus with water, leave them to soak (this will make it more easy to peel them).
- Peel the potatoes, put in pan, cover with water, add pinch of salt.
- Peel the asparagus generously and cut or snap of the woody ends.
- Put the asparagus in a big pan, cover with water.
- Prepare the asparagus soup.
- While eating the soup, cook the potatoes (20 mins) and asparagus (10-15 mins).
- Drain the asparagus well.
- Toss the potatoes with half of the butter, and the parsley.
- Drizzle the rest of the butter over the asparagus.
- Serve the asparagus and parsley potatoes with the cooked egg and ham.
- Cover peels and cut-offs generously with water.
- Bring to the boil and cook for 1 hour.
- Sieve, press all of the liquid from the peels.
- Add stock cube.
- Make a pasta from the corn starch and milk, add to the soup to thicken.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and parsley.
- Serve hot.