Asparagus and hollandaise sauce. What could be more delicious?
Hollandaise has a reputation for misbehaving but make it with care and it will not be troublesome. 
I followed Elizabeth David's uncomplicated instructions.

The ingredients are few and are usually to hand.
Put into a small pan 3 tablespoons of wine vinegar or wine and 2 tablespoons of cold water.
Bring to a boil and reduce until you have a scant tablespoon. Watch out as this happens quite quickly.

Put the reduction into a heatproof bowl to cool.

Have ready 3 beaten egg yolks. I do rather dread recipes which require egg yolks only. I already have  egg whites enough in my freezer to make meringues for a royal wedding. This, is however, a once in a while kind of sauce.

Also have ready 6-7oz of butter cut into 1 oz pieces and which has been allowed to soften.

Have ready, also, a pan of barely simmering water over which you can suspend your heatproof bowl so that its bottom doesn't touch the water.

Add your egg yolks to the vinegar reduction and stir well. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water.

Add one piece of the butter and whisk until it is all incorporated into the egg yolks. It will begin to thicken.
Add the next piece of butter and whisk again. Add the rest of the butter piece by piece in the same way.
Do not let the water below the pan boil.

Action shot.
 It is hard to take photos while you are making a careful sauce. I didn't have anyone in the house who I could trust to either stir while I took the photos or to handle my camera while I stirred.

There is something very restorative about standing over a gently simmering pan stirring the day's frustrations away and creating something sublime to eat.

Your sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
If it is getting too thick add a few drops of cold water.
Season the finished sauce with a little lemon juice and salt. I didn't use salt because I used salted butter, something of which Elizabeth David would, no doubt, not have approved.

This recipe should make enough sauce for 4-6 people. Or two, if you are greedy like me.

Salmon and new potatoes make it a perfect meal.

And before anyone says anything about arteries, diets or cholesterol I am not suggesting hollandaise sauce be made a major part of your daily eating. It is a treat, as is homegrown asparagus. I shan't be making it again this asparagus season although I will be eating plenty more sparrowgrass (as they call it round these parts).

Elizabeth David's recipe for hollandaise sauce can be found in French Provincial Cooking and in At Elizabeth David's Table.


  1. Wow! It looks delicious, I have never tried to make hollandaise, but may now give it a go, next time I have salmon, Thanks for the inspiration. Jude

  2. And I thought it was only the old folk of East Anglia who called it sparrow grass! So pleased to know it is more widely known...my uncle has been providing us with bundles of fresh homegrown asparagus for two weeks now, and I have no doubt he will turn up this week with another bundle.

  3. Oh, the anticipation I have felt for this post since you first mentioned it to me! And it is every bit as good as I hoped.

  4. Brilliant, have always wanted to have a go at this! Have you tried white asparagus? It seems very popular around here.

  5. I could live on this kind of food, as could the chaps.

  6. Sue, that looks divine. I've been craving fish lately - had cedar planked salmon with a BBQ sauce glaze on Saturday. Tonight I had salad with little shrimps on it and beer battered prawns. I admire you making hollandaise.. I just slap butter on my sparrow grass! LOL

    Teresa from Oregon USA

  7. http://www.britishasparagusfestival.org/programme.html

    I love the Heritage of 'Sparrow Grass' in Worcestershire, the Festival runs from April 23- June 21st this year. The Annual Auction in Bretforton is fascinating and sees undoubtedly the best Asparagus in the world!

  8. The Asparagus Festival, of course thanks for the link In The Sky.

    No, never tried white asparagus Lizzy -never seen it here. I think it's a very continental thing.

  9. Looks delicious! I love hollandaise sauce, especially over poached eggs

  10. Barbarabea2:08 pm BST

    Use your egg whites to make financiers - cakes with egg whites and ground almonds. Lots of recipes on the web.

  11. I think my "Last meal" would go something like that, the sort before you walk the plank etc.

    THAT is my problem I wouldnt be able to just have it once. You show remarkable courage in the face of such temptation.

  12. That's the one sauce that I find very therapeutic in the making and combining it with those other ingredients makes a perfect meal, in my opinion.

  13. Barbarabea, thanks for the tip. I found a page Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes using egg whites including financiers. Luckily I am well supplied with ground almonds.

  14. Anonymous5:38 pm BST

    Oh, that looks good.

  15. Pati from London7:36 am BST

    Sue, that looks yummy... We love the combination of salmon, potatoes and asparagus at home but I usually fry the asparagus for 3-5minutes with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. I always have tins of white asparagus from Spain and we like eating them in salads if they are tips or if they are big we eat them with mayo as a starter. I love eating salmon and potatoes with horseradish sauce also. It's early this morning and am beginning to feel very HUNGRY!! Enjoy Easter Sunday!! x Pati

  16. I just had to thank you. I followed your Hollandaise instructions and have just had a delicious experience with some Worcesershire 'Sparrowgrass'. :)


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