From Bill: “The easiest way to cook British asparagus is to dry-fry or griddle it – quickly, delicately – enhancing and adding to the flavour and texture of the spears with some crisp charring. This dish has a really fast turnaround time if you poach, warm and griddle simultaneously. Serve with some good crusty bread for mopping up every last drop of golden yolk. “
Ingredients (serves 4)
Olive oil, for griddling and drizzling
300g British asparagus, trimmed
4 medium eggs
4 tbsp hollandaise sauce (optional – see below for recipe)
plenty of mixed salad leaves
Parmesan, for shavings chive flowers, to garnish
Lightly oil a frying pan or griddle and get it good and hot before laying the asparagus spears flat on the heated surface. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to do this in batches, but each batch should only take a couple of minutes. Turn the spears or roll them over now and then to ensure they cook through without burning – although a little charring and blackening is good.
While the asparagus is griddling, poach the eggs for2-3 minutes in simmering salted water with a dash of vinegar. Warm the hollandaise sauce, if you are using it, and get four plates ready by putting a generous handful or two of salad leaves on each.
Divide the crispy asparagus spears between the plates, spreading them over the leaves, and drizzle with olive oil. Drain the poached eggs using a slotted spoon and carefully balance one on each heap of asparagus and leaves. Spoon some hollandaise over the top if you like, then finish with a good handful of fresh Parmesan shavings, some sea salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Scatter some chive flowers over the top for a springtime flourish.
Bill’s hollandaise sauce
Bill says “Buttery, lemony, rich and light all at the same time, hollandaise is a delicious and luxurious sauce, made with expensive ingredients. Which is why it’s so upsetting when it all goes pear-shaped or, to be precise, curdles.
I reckon as many attempts at hollandaise sauce end up being poured down the kitchen sink
as make it to the table, with crestfallen and harried cooks fuming about the wasted ingredients, throwing down their aprons and abandoning their Masterchef dreams. But, if you take it slowly and are careful not to overheat at any stage, there should be a happy ending. “
Bill’s hollandaise is made with crème fraîche instead of olive oil. Purists may sneer, but it is less costly than olive oil and has all the taste and smoothness we’re looking for.
4 egg yolks
the juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
125g salted butter
2 tbsp crème fraîche
makes roughly 250ml
Put the egg yolks, lemon juice and vinegar in a food processor and whizz for 5 minutes.
Shortly before the end of the 5 minutes, put the butter in a small pan and melt it, making sure it just begins to sizzle but not burn. Pour the melted butter in
to the food processor, keeping blitzing all the while until fully blended.
Pour the mixture back in the small pan, stir in the crème fraîche and put on to heat for 30 seconds, whisking continuously. Remove from the heat and ideally serve immediately.
Or you can keep it warm for a while in a covered heatproof bowl over very gently simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you’re ready to serve up.