How To Cook
Times Online Real Food

Naked Asparagus!

Boil, steam, roast, chargrill, stir-fry or sauté... the list is endless so click here to find ways to cook up this most versatile of veg!

Boiling & Steaming

Whether boiling or steaming, it is a good idea to tie the asparagus in bundles of 10-12 spears for cooking, so they can be quickly removed from the water all at once.

To boil: submerge in a large pan of boiling water, cover and cook for 3-6 minutes.

To steam: stand the asparagus in 3 inches of boiling water, cover and cook for 3-6 minutes.

Roasting, Chargrilling & Barbecueing

Roasting and chargrilling produce an intense smoky flavour quite distinct from boiling or steaming.

To roast: pre-heat the oven (220°C, gas mark 7), place asparagus on baking sheet and drizzle over a little olive oil. Roast for approximately 10 minutes, turning a few times depending on the thickness of the spears. Stems should be soft, not limp, tips should be slightly crunchy.

To chargrill: toss the spears in a little olive oil and place in a ridged grill pan over a high heat. Grill the spears for 3-6 minutes turning once or twice.

To barbecue: set the grill on a medium height above the coals - you don't want the asparagus to cook too quickly and become black. Place the spears directly on the grill and cook until lightly coloured. If desired, toss in a light vinaigrette while still warm.

Stir Frying & Sautéing

Choose fine, young asparagus for stir frying and sautéing. If your asparagus is thicker, you may want to plunge it into boiling water for a couple of minutes and then into cold water to partially cook before stir frying or sautéing

To stir fry: heat a little sunflower oil in a wok or deep frying pan until smoking hot, add the asparagus and stir fry for 3-6 minutes. Finish with soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce or your favourite oriental condiment.

To sauté: heat a non-stick frying pan over a gentle heat and add a knob of butter. When it starts to foam, add the asparagus and toss in the butter for 3-6 minutes.

Salad

Select the youngest, finest spears available, chop roughly and use in your favourite salad. If desired, blanch very briefly in boiling water and refresh before use as described above. A delicious combination is asparagus, fresh peas, feta cheese and lemon dressing.

When you get your rich pickings home

As asparagus is grown in sandy soil, always wash your pickings well to remove any grit before cooking. Trim any white ends or peel with a vegetable peeler and be careful not to overcook your asparagus. You should feel a little resistance when you test the spear with a knife.

Storing Asparagus

In the fridge: If you plan to keep your asparagus for a few days, keep it fresh by placing in a jug or vase with the stems in water, then store (carefully) in the fridge.

In the freezer: Wash well; cut off tough part of stalks and either leave as spears or cut in 1-inch pieces. Boil thin stalks 2 minutes, medium stalks 3 minutes and thick stalks 4 minutes. Blanching the asparagus before freezing in this way prevents the enzymes that cause it to lose its colour and taste from taking effect. Pack leaving about 1/2-inch of headspace. For spears, it’s a good idea to alternate tips and ends down.

Picture of a asparagus tipsTips for the freshest aspagus