Last week, Sonia asked me to write a recipe for asparagus. Now it’s this week and I still haven’t done it. You’d think I would have one on file, considering I have probably written around 3,000 recipes over the past 30 years.
And, of course, I do have one. Several in fact. One for risotto, one for soup, three asparagus salads. Grilled, poached and even raw. You know the raw one—it’s where you shave the asparagus into ribbons with a potato peeler, toss the ribbons in lemon juice and salt, leave them for 5 minutes and then add olive oil and parmesan shavings. It’s ok. But a bit cheffy—by which I mean, chefs, including me, can’t leave a good thing alone; they have to do something different with it. We’ll be seeing fermented asparagus next. With a charcoal and dandelion vinegar dressing.
I also did one with gulls’ eggs: poached asparagus, gulls eggs, celery salt and Richard Bertinet’s then uniquely delicious organic sourdough bread. That was about 8 years ago when Richard had probably never heard of Waitrose. Gulls eggs have an intensely rich flavour and velvety texture. It goes with asparagus the way a discord resolves into harmony. I have also done grilled asparagus with St George’s mushrooms, those firm white and pale golden brown nutty flavoured wild mushrooms which grow around the edges of beech woods between the end of March and May. How perfectly St Georges mushrooms and asparagus go together, I thought when I first did the dish. Same with asparagus and gulls eggs. Which brings us on the least inspiring of all asparagus reflections: how awful it is to see asparagus out of season. Nothing bores me more than people yapping indignantly about Peruvian asparagus. It makes you want to club a baby seal to death. No, not really. I didn’t really say that.
But the reason I am not using one of my old recipes demonstrates a flaw that I probably share with many other cooks who write recipes. Which is that when you read again certain recipes you have written a long time ago, they feel like they don’t taste of anything anymore, as if they need different words to bring to life their appeal, their deliciousness, almost their intimacy.
So this is just another way of showing how those four ingredients can sit beautifully together on a plate.
This recipe is for four people.
Asparagus with poached egg, smoked bacon and pecorino
- 16 spears of English asparagus, snapped off at that particular point in the stem
- 4 as fresh as possible eggs
- 4 rashers of good smoked streaky bacon, sliced into little strips
- A handful of good pecorino, grated
- A small bunch of chives
- Juice of half a lemon
- Good olive oil
Plunge the asparagus into fast boiling salted water and cook until when you bite into the end of one stalk it is not quite soft but not al dente either. This will take about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain carefully (so you don’t damage the tips) and plunge into cold water for a few seconds to arrest any further cooking. Pat dry and leave to one side in a warm place.
Fry the bacon, not too crispy, just right. Drain off any excess fat.
Put the asparagus spears onto 4 warm plates; lined up, close together.
Poach the eggs.
Place a poached egg onto the middle of each line-up of asparagus spears.
Scatter first the bacon, then the pecorino then the chives over the eggs and asparagus.
A squidge of lemon, a drizzle of oil and a twist of pepper.
Eat with rye bread and a lightly oaked white rioja.
Barny Haughton is a chef, restaurateur, cookery school teacher and Eco Food pioneer. He has run three award-winning restaurants in Bristol over the last 25 years (Rocinantes, Quartier Vert and Bordeaux Quay).
Barny is best known for his work at Square Food Foundation, Bristol’s Cookery School & Community Kitchen, where is Director and Head Teacher, teaching people from all walks of life to cook good food from scratch.