It’s that time of the year again – Spargelzeit! The food markets are stocked up with white asparagus, restaurant menus are packed with the latest seasonal good and Kaisers have cleverly placed packets of Hollandaise sauce and Schwarzwald Schinken next to the asparagus for us to readily pick up the ingredients to make a classic German dish.
I am not sure who is more excited: me, or the Germans? When I first moved to Berlin I was surprised by all the
excitement surrounding Spargelzeit. I mean you can quite often get asparagus in a large British supermarket at Christmas time even if is it imported and at high prices. But this is just it. Germany is all about the art of seasonal eating and that is part of the excitement. Plus it is a fresh and cheaper way to eat compared to using imported goods all the time.
So when I popped to my local farmers market at Kollwitzplatz on Saturday I happily picked up a packet of asparagus. For me, it is a sign that spring is really here and that the long Berlin winter is finally behind us.
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Ingredients: serves 2
I served my asparagus wrapped in ham with some potato cakes and green beans. You can also serve this with plain boiled potatoes, a green salad or as a starter on their own.
For the asparagus and mustard sauce:
8 pieces of white asparagus (washed in cold water, woody ends trimmed and lightly peeled)
4 slices of Schwarzwald Schinken (parma ham also works well)
150ml double cream
Fresh parsley (a small handful and finely chopped)
Juice of half a lemon
2 tspn Dijon mustard
Black pepper/ salt
For the potato cakes:
6 or 7 medium/ large potatoes (peeled and diced)
Handful of finely chopped chives or spring onions
2 small slices of butter
1 tspn cayenne pepper
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
Fresh parsley (finely chopped)
1 eggs (beaten)
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbpsn sunflower oil (for frying)
Fine green beans (ends trimmed)
Add the potatoes with a pinch of salt to a pan of boiling water and boil for around 20 minutes or until soft. Drain the potatoes and add them back to the pan with the butter. Mash the potatoes until they are light and fluffy and then mix in the chives, parsley, lemon juice, garlic and black pepper. Leave to one side to cool down.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/ 190 degrees Celsius. Drizzle the base of an oven dish with olive oil.
Wrap 2 pieces of asparagus with a slice of ham and place in the dish. Repeat until all the asparagus is used up and put in the oven for around 15 – 20 minutes. Use a knife to see if they are soft inside, but still with a bit of crunch.
You can also place the green beans in the oven for the same amount of time.
In the meantime heat the cream in a small saucepan and add the Dijon mustard, juice of half a lemon, fresh parsley and black pepper. Simmer on a gentle heat and stir occasionally.
To make the potato cakes: Roll the potato mixture into large patties using your hands (you should end up with around 4). Beat the egg in a bowl and pour the breadcrumbs and cayenne pepper into a separate bowl. Dip each potato cake into the egg and then coat in the breadcrumbs.
Heat a large frying pan with the oil. Once hot add the potato cakes and cook on each side for around 3 minutes.
Drain the potato cakes onto some kitchen paper and then plate them up. Add the green beans on the side and place the asparagus on top. Lightly pour the mustard cream over the dish and garnish with more fresh parsley and black pepper if needed.