One of the reasons I love eating fresh produce in season, particularly those fruits and vegetables that haven’t travelled far to get to my plate, is that it requires very little effort in the kitchen to bring out their best on a plate. White asparagus is, for me, a prime example: yes, you can do all sorts of complicated things with a handful of spears and they’ll likely taste fabulous, but Germany’s white gold is at its best dished up looking not too different from how it came out of the earth. If you’re looking to step up your Spargel game, however, or trying to win over someone who’s averse to the stuff, try adding a couple more good quality ingredients and a bit of elbow grease at the stove to really impress your dinner guests. I’d highly recommend starting with this white asparagus cream soup.
This simple early summer soup really is something special. It sits at the opposite end of the scale to the rustic winter soups I usually prefer; a light yet luxurious starter, and one that’s totally deceptive, too. Spargelcremesuppe costs very little to make and requires far less effort than it you’d think, yet it’s a dish that’ll have your guests declare your kitchen prowess worthy of a Michelin star. (Possibly.)
The recipe below is adapted from my trusty German cookbook Küchenschätze. This sort of soup often calls for just the peelings to make the stock with, but this particular recipe requires the peelings for the base plus the rest of the spears, too. However, when it comes to buying white asparagus for soup, you don’t need to buy the fat, expensive stuff: you can usually pick up bags of broken or bent spears at the market which are more than adequate for making stock with (ask for Suppenspargel, literally ‘soup Spargel’). It really doesn’t matter what the spears look like, just as long as they’re fresh.
On first reading, this recipe might seem like a bit of work, but I promise you it’s not (I made it on Saturday night in total chaos, chatting to my sister-in-law, feeding two toddlers and making a lemon tart). In terms of preparation, the asparagus requires only peeling and chopping, and minimal attention is required at the stove. Passing the soup through a sieve might sounds laborious and unnecessary but it’s really no bother at all; plus it’s totally worth the extra effort for a silky smooth soup – and the reception it’ll get from your guests.
White Asparagus Cream Soup
750g white asparagus
1½ tsp salt
1½ tsp sugar
4½ tbsp butter
3 tbsp plain flour (or 3½ tbsp rice flour for a gluten-free soup)
150ml white wine (or 150ml vegetable stock plus 1½ tbsp lemon juice)
225ml single cream
Small bunch of fresh chives or chervil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
First prepare the white asparagus: wash the spears and peel each one carefully (you’re using the peel for stock, which is why you need to wash it). If your asparagus is fresh enough that the ends are wet – they should be when you buy them – you won’t need to snap them off. Put the bits of peel (and any ends) into a pan with 1.5l water, the salt and the sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes before draining through a sieve into a large bowl. Compost your peelings; leave the stock to cool.
Slice off the tips of the asparagus spears just below the head – approximately 3-4cm asparagus – slice each piece lengthways and set to one side. Cut the rest of the spears into shorter pieces. Melt 3 tbsp of the butter in wide pan that will be large enough to take all the stock, and add the asparagus pieces (but not the tips). Sauté over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then add the flour. Stir and allow to sweat a little before adding the wine to deglaze the pan; then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Once the asparagus pieces are soft (check by poking one with a sharp knife), remove from the heat and use a stick blender to purée them into the stock. Once you’ve got rid off all the lumps of asparagus, pour the purée through a sieve, using a wooden spoon to push it through and also to scrape any clinging liquid off the underside, and return your soup to the pan. Stir in the cream, season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste and reheat gently.
Finally, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan and slowly cook the asparagus tips for about 5 minutes, till they’re golden brown round the edges. Ladle the soup into bowls, dropping in 3 or 4 asparagus tips per person and sprinkling on some chopped herbs to garnish.
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Yum, this looks so comforting! Especially given the weather we’ve had in Munich recently.
Ha! This would make for the most luxurious comfort food EVER!!
(It’s been ruddy miserable, hasn’t it? Except here it’s miserable yet warm. Ugh.)
That sounds incredible… Now if you wouldn’t mind just popping down with a thermos full?? 🙂
No trouble at all! 😉 (You should try it, it’s DELICIOUS.)
Is any particular (German) white wine best for this? Also, would it hold well in the refrigerator until the next day (then reheated)?
Hi Cindy, I probably wouldn’t make it in advance to reheat for guests but it’d be fine to do so for leftovers; there’s just a danger of it splitting when you reheat it, so make sure you do it slowly, over a very low heat, stirring gently. Have a look at my Everything You Need To Know About White Asparagus post for suggestions on matching Spargel and wine 🙂
Oh, this looks wonderful. It is very hard to get white asparagus here. It isn’t really a thing. But I will try to source some!
I’d never even eaten it before I moved to Germany. If you still haven’t found some when I’m back next season, I’ll send you some! 😉
I bought a beautiful bunch here in a California super market. I put the stems in an inch of water with plastic bag covering tops loosely. I couldn’t believe how succulent the white asparagus was since it’s out of season. I made this soup, which we first enjoyed in Switzerland and Germany last spring. This recipe worked well. I did use a couple of green stalks for added color.
Oh wow, that’s amazing, lucky you! Was it grown in California?!