Allyson Gofton - Aspiring Asparagus

Publish Date
Friday, 14 November 2014, 12:00AM
By Allyson Gofton


  • Has always been considered a luxury. The prices quoted in Mrs. Beeton’s book show that it was an expensive vegetable to indulge in way back then.
  • The price is only ever great for about 3 weeks of the year and that’s now.
  • Asparagus comes purple, white and green.
  • In NZ, Aussie and Britain we have a preference for the green asparagus, while on the continent they prefer white.


  • White Asparagus is grown under mounds of earth and is harvested when the tips just break through the surface.
  • Purple asparagus comes two ways, one where the baby tips are picked when they are about 4cm above the ground so that the stems are also white or the purple asparagus we see is a varietal thing.
  • Green asparagus is grown above the dirt level, hence its colour.
  • Flavours from all three will vary completely,  though we seem to be very fond of the more pungent, grassy, green/sauvignon blanc tasting asparagus.


  • Asparagus begins to lose its flavour once it is cut.
  • Buy to use and do not store too long.
  • Buy stems that are not limp and have a tightly furled tip.
  • Keep stored in the vegetable drawer wrapping the stalk bases or ends in a damp paper towel so that they do not become too dehydrated.


  • Break off the woody base of each stem and trim to an even size.
  • Large thick stems can be peeled to remove the stringy outer layer.
  • There is no need to do this with young asparagus, and especially the thin stems as there will be nothing left!
  • True asparagus aficionados will cook their asparagus in an asparagus cooker. Long narrow, tall pots with a basket inside. The tips are steamed while the stalks are poached.
  • Easiest way though is to cook in a frying pan or shallow pan of boiling  water.
  • Try to have only one –two layers no more.
  • Cooking time will vary with the thickness.
  • Try roasting  or baking asparagus – the flavour is intense. Toss the stalks in olive oil and cook at 200 – 220 degrees C  until tender. Or pan fry in a ridged frying pan to look bbq’d. Serve with salt, lemon rind and tarragon – fantastic.

Smoked Salmon And Asparagus Pizza

Preparation Time: 40 minutes

2½ cups scone mix
1 tblsp chopped fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup cold water
½ cup tomato paste or pizza sauce
2 courgettes, finely sliced
200 grams fresh asparagus or use 340 gram can of asparagus
200 grams hot smoked salmon
1 tblsp capers, chopped
¾ cup mozzarella


  1. Toss scone mix with thyme. Make a well in the centre, stir in water and mix to a soft dough.
  2. Empty onto a floured board and knead lightly. Press into the base of a greased and lined 25cm round cake tin, bringing the dough 2-3 cm up the sides.
  3. Spread over tomato paste or pizza sauce. Pan fry courgettes until tender. Trim and blanch fresh asparagus.
  4. Arrange the vegetables on top of the sauce. Flake over salmon and scatter with chopped capers with mozzarella. Bake at 220ºC for 18-20 minutes.

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