You couldn’t possibly find a more Dutch way of eating asparagus than this. And, for those of you who feel the need to point out that Hollandaise sauce is French, some historians believe that it was actually invented in the Netherlands and then taken back to France by the Huguenots. A recipe for Hollandaise sauce appears in a Dutch cookbook by Carel Baten, which dates from 1593. Once looked down upon as peasant food (note the humble way it was painted
), the Dutch now consider asparagus to be ‘white gold’. Heritage aside, this simply is the best way to enjoy this delicious delicacy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
- 8 -10 asparagus spears per person (approx. 3.5 pounds/1.6 kilos for four people)
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 whole eggs & 4 egg yolks
- 8 slices boiled ham
- 4 tbsp dry white wine (e.g. Pinot Blanc d’ Alsace)
- 1 cup melted butter (100 g)
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- Pinch of salt and white pepper
- 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Soak the asparagus in cold water as soon as you get them home. Rinse and peel with a potato peeler (start from just under the head and work your way down). Now cut the woody bit off the end (about 1/2"/1 cm). Place the asparagus and salt in a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. Now temper the heat slightly and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat and leave the asparagus in the hot water for a further 15-20 minutes, or until tender.
Meanwhile, boil 4 of the eggs and chop finely. Slice the ham into fine strips.
For the Hollandaise, beat egg yolks and wine until foamy. Place on a low heat and beat continuously until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and add the melted butter in a thin trickle, while continuing to whisk. Add the nutmeg, lemon juice, salt and white pepper. Whisk again, and set aside.
Gently drain the cooked asparagus. Be careful not to damage the tender heads. Plate them up, making sure the asparagus are facing in the same direction, and top with the Hollandaise sauce, chopped ham and boiled eggs. Scatter parsley over and serve with the rest of the chilled wine.
If you're not able to use your asparagus right away, simply wrap it in a damp tea towel and keep it in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. It keeps quite well this way.
Many Dutch people eat this dish with melted butter instead of Hollandaise. It's an easy way out for those too daunted to try Hollandaise or a good back-up plan if your Hollandaise breaks. But please don't let me scare you. It really isn't hard to make at all!
I’m a big fan of using the same wine in your food as you’re planning to drink. Here, you only need 4 tablespoons, so why not? Besides, if you’re going to be making a delicate sauce like Hollandaise, why ruin it with some cheap plonk?
Hollandaise sauce is famous for breaking, so if you’d rather not take any chances, feel free to use a double boiler (also known as the au bain marie method). Simply place your bowl over a pan of gently boiling water and continue as directed above. However, I find that if you simply do it in a saucepan on a very gentle heat and whisk like crazy it does not tend to break.
This is generally considered a main meal in Holland, but you could serve smaller portions as a starter.