It is that time of the year: asparagus season. And with it, of course, come the beautiful long days, the sound of birds chirruping cheerily at dawn and bright, long walks in the Spring sunshine. Perhaps it is the very seasonality of asparagus that makes the greens taste so special – but I find their delicate, yet distinctive flavour, elevates anything from a simple frittata to an egg and asparagus sandwich into the echelons of unforgettable meals. Asparagus are wonderfully versatile: poached in a nice, buttery risotto; chargrilled (or, once the weather gets that little warmer, even cooked on the barbecue) with copious quantities of olive oil. Best of all, steamed, and then topped with an egg fried in butter so that its heavenly yolk oozes all over the greens.
Of course, egg and asparagus is a culinary match made in heaven: asparagus with homemade mayonnaise will always a classic, and with hollandaise, while the prerogative of the more confident chef, will always feel like a treat. But a favourite of mine is asparagus drenched in a light zabaione sauce. Essentially, egg yolks, a pinch of salt and a generous dousing of prosecco, cooked gently over a simmering pot of water and whipped into submission until they morph into a sauce so light, it most closely resembles air. I cannot imagine a more heavenly way to enjoy the start of Spring.
Asparagi con Zabaione
(Asparagus with Zabaione Sauce)
I like to steam my asparagus – it’s a simple way of cooking them, and I find that they keep their lovely, natural flavour. But if you prefer, you could just as well lightly blanche them in boiling water for 3-6 mins, until tender but not soft.
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
4 egg yolks
1 tsp sugar
Fill the kettle with water and bring it to the boil. Trim the asparagus and discard the ends then spread the stalks out on an opened fan steamer and lower into a frying pan or saucepan. Pour in roughly 2-3cm of the boiling water from the kettle and put the lid on. Cook for 3-5 mins, depending on how thick the stalks are, and lay out on a serving plate.
Now turn to the sauce. Fill a saucepan up to a third with cold water and bring to the boil. Combine the egg yolks, prosecco, sugar and a pinch of salt into a heatproof mixing bowl that fits snugly over the saucepan. You want the heat of the simmering water to gently steam the egg sauce, just be careful that the hot water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl, as that will cause the eggs to curdle. As the water begins to boil, use a whisk to beat the mixture for 3-5 minutes until the sauce thickens – it should be light and frothy, and double in size. Drizzle the sauce generously over the asparagus, sprinkle liberally with salt and serve while still warm or at room temperature.