Here in the Netherlands, white asparagus is a seasonal tradition that’s enjoyed as early as April but gets incredibly cheap near the end of spring (and we’re talking CHEAP, like 5kilos for €6 cheap!)
Nicknamed “white gold” the vegetable is kept white by growers constantly covering up the plant with soil preventing it from getting sunlight and producing chlorophyll. So essentially it’s a vampire vegetable that’s manufactured by us humans and therefore there’s no such thing as “wild” white asparagus…
It’s very important how you peel white asparagus because it has a very thick layer of skin that is completely inedible unlike its softer green variety. Peel in long movements from top to the bottom to maintain the quality of the vegetable.
The classic dish here in the Netherlands is white asparagus with ham, butter and a boiled egg. Another mega-classic variation is poached white asparagus with a simple hollandaise sauce. I had 5 kilos of the stuff and making soup was a must.
White asparagus soup with hazelnuts and brown butter
- High powered blender
- 750 g white asparagus
- 125 g butter
- 500 g whole milk
- 1 lemon
- 50 g hazelnuts peeled
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Wash the asparagus quickly in cold water and begin peeling the tough skin from top to bottom in long strokes. After they are all peeled remove about a 3cm off the bottom of the stem and discard. Doesn’t have to be exactly 3cm just make sure there are no woody parts left as this will not purée properly. Cut the rest of the cleaned asparagus into medium sized pieces.
- Place the asparagus pieces in a big pot and cover completely with milk. You can add a bit of water to cover the top if there’s not enough milk but you don’t want to add too much liquid as it will dilute the flavour. Season nicely with salt and add the sugar. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the asparagus is completely soft.
- In the meantime put your butter in a small pot and gently cook until it turns brown and the most amazing smell is created. Keep warm. Toast your hazelnuts whole in the oven at about 375F/190C for about 8 minutes until nicely browned. Chop them and set aside.
- Once the vegetables are cooked remove them from the milk and place in a high powered blender. Add enough milk to the blender until a nice soup consistency is achieved. With the blender on full power-extreme mode slowly add in the warm browned butter into the blender and continue to blend for about 2 minutes and save a little of the brown butter for later. You might have to work in batches here if it doesn’t all fit into the blender at once. It’s important to remember that you can always add more liquid but you can never take away. Another nice trick is to add your seasoning while you blend, so your soup is evenly seasoned. Add the lemon juice right at the end to keep the fresh taste of the lemon.
- Taste everything and decide whether you need more salt or lemon juice. Once it’s ready serve in a bowl with the chopped hazelnuts, fresh cracked black pepper and a bit of the brown butter on top. Enjoy!