Serves 4-6

There is still a bit of English asparagus around, and, eaten without any cutlery, it's a perfect and simple treat for a picnic. If your asparagus is thin (sprue) to medium then there is no need to peel it; just cut the woody ends away. If it's very thick cut the woody stalks away and peel the stems starting about 3-4cm below the tip. At home I seldom bother peeling asparagus.

There is still a bit of English asparagus around, and, eaten without any cutlery, it's a perfect and simple treat for a picnic. If your asparagus is thin (sprue) to medium then there is no need to peel it; just cut the woody ends away. If it's very thick cut the woody stalks away and peel the stems starting about 3-4cm below the tip. At home I seldom bother peeling asparagus.

500-600g asparagus, trimmed

for the tarragon mayonnaise

1 egg yolk
1tsp white wine vinegar
1/2tsp English mustard
1tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground white pepper
50ml olive oil mixed with 100ml vegetable oil
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
1/2tbsp chopped tarragon leaves

Put the egg yolks, vinegar, mustards and salt and pepper into a stainless steel or glass bowl on a damp cloth to stop it slipping. Mix well with a whisk, then gradually trickle the oils into the bowl, whisking continuously. If the mayonnaise is getting too thick add a few drops of water and continue whisking the oil. When the oil is all incorporated taste, re-season if necessary and add a little lemon juice. Put the tarragon into a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and simmer for a minute or so until the liquid evaporates, leave to cool and stir the herb into the mayonnaise.

Meanwhile cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 4-6 minutes, depending on the thickness until tender, then drain and refresh briefly under cold water. Picnickers can dip their asparagus spears into a shared bowl of the mayonnaise. If you're eating off plates at home you could serve out the mayonnaise.

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