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Sunday morning walk in the woods, life cannot start any better on a fresh, blue sky spring sunny day. Only a short drive away from home, resides one of our favourite family locations for a tranquil walk in nature – the Lemmens music academy in Leuven. Parking the car in front of the building we would frequently hear classical music being played, but as tempting the performance might be we rarely stop to listen and instead hurry away, zig-zaging behind the building deep into the woods, seeking seclusion beneath the majestic century old trees.
The wood is always offering its abundance of life, wether it would be the first spring bird singing or the joyful squirrels jumping close to our side we partake gladly in its magic and take small tokens of gifts back home – a handful apples, chestnuts, flowers… This trip has not been any different. The fruit trees are not quite yet full of blossom but the aromatic sweet viollets have casted their delicate perfume all over the place. Taking a handful I know exactly how to enjoy them during our family lunch.
The sweet violettes are among the edible flowers and are often served as garnish in selected gourmet restaurants. Today, they are gracing our table as finishing touch on a delicious German white asparagus soup. Smooth, buttery and creamy, this soup’s delicate flavour could be a start of a special family meal and is often associated with traditional Easter Sunday lunch in Belgium.
1. Bring 12 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. Meanwhile, trim about 1⁄2” from the ends of the asparagus. Lay spears on a work surface, then peel thin skin from each with a sharp swivel-blade vegetable peeler, starting 1 1⁄2” from the top and running the length of the spear. (Spears are brittle and can snap when peeled in midair.) Reserve peels. Gather spears into 2 bundles and tie loosely with kitchen string.
2. When the water in the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium. Add the reserved peels, sugar, 2 generous pinches of salt, 3 tbsp. of the butter, and 1 tsp of the vinegar. Return to a simmer, then add asparagus and cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 8-30 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. Remove asparagus from pot and drain on paper towels, then set aside. Increase heat to medium-high and reduce stock by one-third, about 30 minutes. Strain stock and keep hot over low heat.
3. Melt the remaining 3 tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes. Do not allow flour to brown (it will color soup). Whisk in hot asparagus stock 1 cup at a time and continue whisking until smooth. Simmer soup, stirring often, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Add cream and continue simmering for 2 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and chicken bullion cube if you like.
4. Untie asparagus bundles, then cut spears into 1” lengths and add to soup. Simmer for 1 minute more. Adjust seasonings. Ladle soup into warmed bowls and garnish with sweet edible viollets and radish sprouts, if you like.