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Markus Anecdotes - White asparagus the way we eat it in the Netherlands

Written by Markus with photos by Markus

After having grown up in the Netherlands, I’ve spend most of my adult life in Asia. One thing I missed is food. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the food I can buy in Asia. In fact, my favourite dishes come from there, for example cereal prawn. But still, there are dishes that I miss. So when back in the Netherlands I indulge in dishes that I simply can’t get (with ease) in Asia.

These include snack, such as Bitterballen, where meat and deep-frying are key. But there is one craving (dich) that I’ve been filling my tummy with for some time now and dare to classify as one of my favourite cravings. It’s very simple and quick to make: Asparagus

What you need:

- Bunch of white asparagus

- Eggs

- Ham

- Butter

- Salt

- Water

You start with a bunch of white asparagus.

First you wash them thoroughly. Not that you risk getting sick if you don’t, but there may be some sand that you don’t want damaging your teeth. Then about 3 or 4cm from the top, you peel off the skin. What you remove is the tougher outer layer that is very stringy. And don’t be stingy trying to take off as little as you can. This will result in spoiling the asparagus as you want to get it soft and not stringy. Also don’t forget to cut off the bottom 1 cm and this may have dried out a bit.

Then you’ll need to boil the asparagus in water. Challenge here is not to overcook the top, while properly cook the rest. There are pans specifically for boiling asparagus.

In these pans, the top of the asparagus will stick out of the water and are in fact steamed rather than cooked. This while the rest of the asparagus is fully cooked. If you don’t have a pan like this, not to worry. You can also take a large frying pan, fill it with water, put the heat under the middle of the pan put and raise the heads of the asparagus just above the water by putting a spoon or something small under it. And if this is not an option either, then just boil them.

Add some salt and cook the asparagus for 10 to 12 minutes. Before taking them all out and throwing the water, take one and see if you can easily slide through it with a knife, cut off the bottom part and when eating it, it should not be stringy. It should be soft. If it’s stringy it means you didn’t take off enough of the outer layer (if you find this out at this point, your dish is essentially ruined) or you need to cook it a bit more.

Once done, take them out of the water and let them rest.

Next you boil a few eggs. Of course farm eggs from free roaming chickens are the best, but any egg will do. You boil them through fully. Don’t add anything to the water except perhaps some salt. Once fully cooked, take them out, peel them and put them to rest.

Then you take some ham. Not sliced too thinly. But also not thick. Try to find ham that is sliced about 1.5mm thick. Shoulder ham will do. Or any other ham that goes onto bread. Key here is to take ham that is not stringy or has chewy parts. You don’t have to do anything. The only thing I do is put them flat on the plate, so that it is not cold when you eat it (assuming you’ve kept it in the fridge).

And then for the last ingredient, warm up some nice French salted butter in a separate pan. Using a good butter is very important as you want the butter taste to pop. Don’t fry it. Don’t make it too hot. Just slowly melt the butter on a low fire. I normally take about 150 grams for 2 plates. Best is to make an actual butter-sauce, but this is not needed. Just plain melted butter will do fine.

Some people also add some small potatoes. Simply boil in water and add some salt. But to be honest, this is often just for show as you’ll find your tummy is full just eating the asparagus, ham and eggs.

You can also add some herbs, but I don’t do this. Too much hassle and it doesn’t change much.

Final step it to combine it all.

Put the asparagus in the middle. Cut the egg in slices and put it on the side. Roll the ham in little roles and put on the other side. And then take the butter and simply pour it over everything.

And that’s it! That’s how I eat my asparagus.

If you can’t find white asparagus but only green asparagus, it will result in a different dish. You can try to use green asparagus but if so, try to get them as big (and thick) as you can. Regardless, the outcome will be very different. Personally if using green asparagus, I end up with mushy heads while the rest is stringy. They are just suitable not for fully boiling through.

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