White asparagus soup is a creamy, delicately flavored soup that you'll find all over Germany during white asparagus season. It is easy to make and a delicious taste of spring.
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I remember the first time I was in Germany during white asparagus season, I was a little unprepared for quite how ubiquitous it was. Even the tiny little place I was staying in had at least two or three dishes using it on their menu. Then I went to other restaurants and the market and found it everywhere.
The season is relatively short, but Spargelzeit (asparagus time) is an annual celebration in Germany. And after you try a few dishes using it, like this lovely soup, you may understand why.
What is different about white asparagus?
White and green asparagus are not different varieties, but instead, the difference in color comes from how they are grown. White asparagus is grown without daylight, either by being grown underground or buried in dirt. This means it doesn't develop chlorophyll which turns the spears green.
The result is that while it has a tougher outer skin, the inside is tender and delicately flavored. It's often said to be less bitter and more sweet. It's this combination of texture and flavor that makes it highly prized in some places, such as Germany.
Due to the more labor-intensive process in growing, it can be that bit more expensive. It can also be harder to store and transport, so you will generally find it available for a shorter period. However when you can, it is worth hunting down and enjoying it whether simply gently cooked and served with butter or Hollandaise, or in a simple soup like this.
Steps to make white asparagus soup
Since the white asparagus flavor is very delicate, it can be tricky to make sure you don't overpower it with other flavors. The technique in this traditional soup is a little unusual and also pretty clever to try to maximize the asparagus flavor.
- Trim ends from and peel the asparagus - as mentioned above, the skin can be tough so you want to remove it. However DON'T discard it, you are about to use it.
- Make a stock from the asparagus peelings - this helps you get extra asparagus flavor in the end soup.
- Cook the asparagus in the stock - after discarding the peelings, you then cook the asparagus in the stock you made until it is tender. This adds to the flavor, too.
- Make a roux and add the asparagus stock - the roux thickens the soup, while the stock makes sure it has that asparagus flavor.
- Add cream - this adds a lovely rich creaminess to the end soup. Add back the pieces of asparagus, then serve.
If you like, you can blend some or all of the asparagus pieces into the soup. Blending them will give you a little more asparagus flavor throughout the soup. However, it's kind of nice to have those little bites of asparagus as you go, and it's probably more typical with chunks in there.
Top tip: separate out the asparagus tips
The asparagus tips are quite a bit thinner than the part near the base, and also they are that bit more delicate. So be sure to separate the tips and add them a little later in cooking so they get less time. This way, they shouldn't overcook.
Some final tips
This isn't a difficult soup, as you can see, but a couple things to bear in mind:
- Make sure you peel the asparagus all the way round, and close to the tips to ensure you don't leave any tough skin.
- When you make the roux, give the flour and butter base a little time to cook to develop a little flavor. Then, add the liquid gradually and stir constantly to avoid lumps. If you do get the odd lump, you should manage to press them out with your spoon. Making the base while the liquid is still warm helps it to be smooth, too.
- Don't boil the soup after adding the cream. In fact, you generally don't really want it much more than a simmer (other than possibly when you are making the stock).
- Make sure you give the soup a taste and adjust the seasoning. Salt and lemon are the main things that may need tweaked to be just right.
Can you make this ahead?
If you want to make the soup ahead, or have leftovers, then store the soup in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. Then, be sure to re-heat it very gently. You want to avoid the liquid separating, and the asparagus pieces are relatively delicate, too.
If you know you are just making ahead, rather than just storing leftovers, then I'd suggest you make the soup just up to the point before you add the cream. Then, store the stock and asparagus pieces separately in the fridge.
To heat and serve, warm the stock gently in a pot, and add the cream once it has warmed through. Then either gently warm the asparagus separately (such as briefly in the microwave or steaming) or even just leave it to be warmed by the broth as you add (it may not fully warm this way but will be close enough).
While you could freeze it in theory, I would not recommend it. The texture of the asparagus will likely not be as good and there's a good chance the liquid will separate.
I also wouldn't recommend jarred asparagus for this. Pickled is definitely not a flavor you want in here, and even if not pickled, the texture will be a lot softer and may not hold up. Not to mention, you won't have the peelings to make the stock. So, this is really one just to enjoy when it's available fresh.
White asparagus soup has a lovely delicate flavor that brings out the best in this less common vegetable. It's wonderfully creamy, with a light, bright flavor that just screams of spring. And it makes a lovely spring appetizer or light lunch.
Try these other simple soups:
- Cullen skink (might be an unusual name, but this smoked haddock chowder is easy, tasty and comforting)
- German pancake soup (as it sounds, pancakes in soup! Simple and tasty)
- Sopa de ajo (a simple broth-based soup with garlic and chunks of bread, that's feels much more than it's humble ingredients)
- Jerusalem artichoke soup (sunchoke soup, an easy blended root vegetable soup)
- Minestrone primavera (another soup that's perfect for spring; easy and adaptable)
- Plus get more appetizer recipes and German recipes in the archives.
White asparagus soup
- ½ lb white asparagus
- 3 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoon flour
- ½ lemon juice ie from ½ lemon
- ⅓ cup heavy cream double cream
- Wash then asparagus then trim the ends off and discard. Peel the skin from the asparagus stems, apart from the tips, but don't discard the peelings.
- Place the asparagus peelings in a pot and add the water. Cover, place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for around 20 minutes.
- As the peelings are simmering to make the asparagus stock, chop the asparagus stems into chunks, about 1 ½ (3cm) in length. Cut the tips off first, set them to one side then chop the rest.
- Pour the asparagus stock through a strainer/sieve into a bowl, reserving the liquid and discarding the peelings.
- Return the stock to the pot and add the asparagus chunks from the main part of the stem - don't add the tips at this point. Return to the stove and simmer over a medium heat, covered, for around 8 minutes. Then, add the tips and simmer another 6 minutes or so until the asparagus is tender.
- Strain the liquid again, this time saving the asparagus and setting to one side. Keep the stock in the bowl for now.
- Wipe down the pot, if needed, then add the butter over a medium heat. Once it has melted and starts to bubble, add the flour and stir so that they combine. Continue to cook for another couple of minutes until the paste becomes gently brown and starts to smell a bit nutty.
- Gradually add the stock, just a little at a time, and stir constantly to incorporate it into the flour paste (the roux). Keep adding, little by little, and mix to keep the paste smooth as it gradually thins out. If needed, whisk a little to remove any lumps.
- Once all of the liquid has been added and the soup has a good consistency, add the lemon juice. Taste the soup to check the seasoning and, if needed, add a little more lemon or salt.
- Add the cream and stir through. Then, divide the cooked asparagus between two bowls (making sure each has roughly the same amount of tips and overall). Pour over the soup and serve.
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