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How to Cook

Preparing and cooking asparagus

Allow approximately 250g asparagus per person. Before cooking wash the asparagus carefully. Young asparagus needs no further preparation; however if the stems seem coarse, trim off the woody ends.

Steaming method

Place the asparagus in a steaming basket over a saucepan of boiling water and sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes until tender.

Microwave method

Cut stalks into 1 1/2” pieces or leave whole. If cut, place pieces into a 3 pint casserole, add water. If left whole arrange the spears lengthwise (tips in centre) in a baking dish (10” x 6” x1’/2”), add 2 fl.oz water. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes; stir the cuts or rotate baking dish containing spears a half turn. Cover and microwave until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes longer. Allow to stand for 1 minute, then drain.

Roasting Method

Lay the asparagus in a baking tin, drizzle with olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Roast in hot oven, turning from time to time until tender and glistering (10-18 mins). Serve with parmesan cheese.

Boiling Method

Tie the asparagus in bunches of 10-12, using soft tape so as not to damage the stems, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to boil. The pan needs to be tall enough to allow the bundles to stand upright so that the tips are above the water, this ensures that the stalks cook in water and the tips in steam. Cover the pan and steam gently for approximately 10 minutes.
Time of cooking varies according to the age, size and length of the stems but as a general rule asparagus is cooked when the tips are tender but not soft to the point of a knife.
Serve the asparagus on individual plates either warm with melted butter or hollandaise sauce served sperately, or cold with French dressing, served separately. Asparagus is traditionally eaten with fingers. Dip the stalks in the butter, sauce or dressing and leave any woody part of the stems.

Asparagus soup

1 1/2Ib fresh British asparagus
salt and freshly ground pepper
2oz butter
8oz onions (skinned and thinly sliced)
2 1/2 pints chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped parsley
5oz single cream
small brown uncut loaf
fresh butter (for spreading)
lemon slices, to garnish

Rinse the asparagus. Cut off the tips and cook very gently until tender. Drain and cool; cover and refrigerate.

Scrape the remaining stalks with a knife to remove the scales, cut off the woody ends and thinly slice the stalks. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the sliced stalks and the onions, cover and cook over a moderate heat for 5-10 minutes or until the vegetables are beginning to soften.

Add the stock and parsley, season and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the asparagus and onions are quite tender. Cool slightly.

Puree in a food processor or blender until quite smooth; sieve if necessary. Roll then stir in the cream and adjust the seasoning.
Cut six thin slices of brown bread, and butter them. Cut off the crusts and halve lengthwise. Roll the reserved asparagus tips inside each piece of bread; place on a serving dish, cover with cling film and refrigerate until required.

This soup can be served well chilled or hot, garnished with wafer-thin slices of lemon and accompanied by the asparagus rolls.

Asparagus Tartlets

4oz plain flour
3oz butter
8oz thin, fresh asparagus spears
8 eggs
4 tbsp milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200∞C (400∞F/gas mark 6). Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in 50g/2oz of the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir in enough cold water to make a soft dough. Knead lightly, then roll out thinly on a floured surface. Use to line 6 10cm wide, 2.5cm deep flat tins. Prick the bases; chill for 10 minutes.

Line with greaseproof paper and beans and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes until crisp.

Cook the asparagus in boiling, salted water until just tender. Drain. Cut off and reserve the tips, Finely chop up the rest of the asparagus.

Beat together eggs, milk and seasoning. Heat 25g/1oz butter in a small pan, add egg mixture and cook over a low heat until just setting. Stir in the chopped asparagus and spoon into the hot pastry cases. Top with the reserve tips and serve at once.

Asparagus and bacon quiche

1 1/2Ib fresh asparagus spears or 8oz frozen asparagus
8oz plain flour
4oz butter or margarine
4 tbsp ice cold water
4oz thinly sliced streaky bacon (rinded)
4 egg yokes
3/4 pint single cream
4oz gruyere cheese(grated)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 200∞C (400∞F/gas mark 6). Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a mixing bowl. Rub in 50g/2oz of the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Trim the heads off fresh asparagus to the length of about 1 1/2 inches. Blanch the heads in boiling salted water for 5 minutes, then drain. If using frozen asparagus, cook in boiling water for 5 minutes then drain and trim as above.

Put the flour in a bowl, add the butter and rub in with the finger tips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough ice cold water to bind to a firm dough. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and roll out to fit a 10 inch fluted flan dish. Bake blind in the oven at 190∞C (375∞F/gas mark 5) for 15 minutes until set but not browned.

Meanwhile, with a knife, stretch the bacon rashers on a flat surface. Wrap a small piece around each asparagus head. In a bowl, mix the egg yokes with the cream, grated cheese and seasoning to taste. Spoon onto the flan case.

Arrange the asparagus and bacon rolls in the custard. Reduce the oven temperature to 180∞C (350∞F/gas mark 4) and bake for 30-35 minutes or until set and golden brown. Cool for 1 hour, then wrap in cling film and store in the refrigerator until required (but no longer than 2 days).

Grilled chicken, asparagus, mint and chilli salad

4 boneless chicken breast fillets (skinned and halved)
olive oil
fresh lemon juice
1 red chilli (de-seeded and finely chopped)
250g asparagus (trimmed)
3 tbsp mint leaves
salad greens

Place the 8 pieces of chicken in a bowl and pour over 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice and half of the chopped red chilli. Turn to coat and leave for 1-2 hours to marinade.

Shortly before serving season the chicken with salt and pepper then place under a preheated grill for 4-6 minutes on each side (depending on thickness) until cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes or until just tender (again, this will depend on thickness), then refresh briefly under running cold water.

Place the salad greens in a large bowl and add the roughly torn mint leaves. In a screw top jar shake together 3 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, the remaining chilli and plenty of salt and pepper.

To serve, toss the dressing through the salad, top with the warm asparagus and grilled chicken, serve at once.