Asparagus is one of the first spring vegetables to arrive on the shop shelves. We are loving them at Wickerfood Cooking School cooking classes. They are now at the height of the season, with prices coming down all the time. Buy local, the fresher the sweeter. Here are two simple recipes, one for white and the other for green asparagus, as well as a delicious easy-to-prepare sauce.

Sauteed Asparagus

Cooking asparagus in a heavy-based frying pan, preferably cast-iron,  with a tight fitting lid, concentrates its flavour rather than diluting it, as in steaming or boiling. This recipe works best with green asparagus, especially the thinner ones.

1kg asparagus
2T  butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Rinse asparagus in cold water and trim off tough ends of stalks.
  2. Put butter in a heavy cast-iron frying pan, with a tight-fitting lid and heat until butter is foaming.
  3. Lay asparagus in the pan and shake from side to side to coat asparagus gently with melted butter. Cover tightly and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Check asparagus and turn as needed to make sure the stalks cook evenly and don't burn.
  4. Continue cooking 5 minutes longer, or until asparagus is tender but still crisp and bright green.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Serves 4

Preparing Fresh White Asparagus

Unlike its green-skinned counterpart, white asparagus has a tough, bitter peel that needs to be removed before cooking. The following is the classic way of preparing white asparagus (alternatively, they can also be steamed).

4L water
2T  salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3T  butter
1kg fresh white asparagus

  1. Bring water, salt, lemon juice,

    and butter to a simmer in a large pot over medium heat.

  2. Meanwhile, trim about 2cm from the ends of white asparagus. Lay spears on a work surface, then peel thin skin from each with a sharp swivel-blade vegetable peeler, starting 4cm from the top and running the length of the spear. (Spears are brittle and can snap when peeled in midair.)
  3. Gather spears into 2-4 bundles, tie loosely with kitchen string, and lower into simmering water. Cook, increasing heat to medium-high to maintain a simmer if necessary, until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus.
  4. Lift bundles from simmering water with kitchen tongs and drain on paper towels.

Serves 4

Olive Oil Sabayon

This is a delicious light, yet elegant sauce to serve with asparagus or artichokes (also great over steamed fish).

1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Place wine and vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce by three-quarters, cool, then transfer to the top of a double boiler.
  2. Add egg yolks to wine reduction. Set over simmering water over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until yolks thicken enough to fall into thin ribbons when whisk is lifted from pan.
  3. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in olive oil. Thin, if necessary, with 1–2 tbsp. water.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

For more asparagus recipes  …. click here

Wickedfood Cooking School runs cooking classes throughout the year at its purpose-built Johannesburg cooking studio. Cookery classes are run in the mornings and evenings 7 days a week (subject to a minimum of 12 people). The venue is also popular for corporate events and private functions – teambuilding cooking classes, birthdays, kitchen teas, and dinner parties with a difference.

Our cooking lessons are hands-on, where every person gets to participate in the preparation of the dishes. They are also a lot of fun where you not only learn new skills, but get to meet people with similar interests. For corporate groups and team building cooking classes these events are a novel way of creating staff interaction or entertaining clients.