Thursday, 7 June 2012

English Asparagus, Soft Boiled Eggs, Salami and Olives

Springtime in London means unpredictable weather, longer evenings and asparagus. The English asparagus season is now well upon us, and the fattest stems are being sold all over town at bargain basement prices.

Asparagus wasn't always so cheap:

Many years ago, my family and I went to Signor Baffi, an Italian restaurant (I don't think it's still in business - if it is, it shouldn't be) in a north London suburb for dinner. The daily special included a starter of English asparagus with drawn butter for a whopping £6, and we were horrified at the price. How could asparagus merit that kind of money? At that time, asparagus WAS pretty dear, but even so.

Anyway, in the unlikely event that Mr Baffi is still in business, he couldn't possibly justify charging sick squid for a few bits of 'grass, whatever he may think of its qualities. Tesco and the rest of the High Street supermarkets are all charging around £1.50 for a good sized bunch of asparagus, and very good value it certainly is. Even with a restaurant's mark-up, but allowing for a trade discount on the raw materials, the Baffi, or his successor, should be charging you no more than about £4.50 per portion. Tell him.

My favourite way of eating asparagus is to dip them 'soldier-style' into soft boiled eggs. If I'm feeling fancy, I may wrap the spears in smoked salmon or parma ham, but for today it's going to be naked - with salami on the side of course. I don't know why, but some kind of smoked food is necessary to offset the richness of the egg and the smoothness of the asparagus. The olives are for... er, actually I just like olives.

As you can see, we chose to eat this little lunchtime feast on the good old roof terrace - for a week or two we had blistering 30c heat, but now it's raining and overcast - and very jolly and Mediterranean-y feeling it was too (but only for for a week or two). Now I just stare out of the patio door with a wistful expression, praying for a bit more global warming to break up this effing drizzle.

This little feast set me back £3 per serving. Wine extra, but necessary, of course.

Serves 2


200g fat asparagus stems
1 teaspoon of sea salt
4 eggs
150 peppered salami, thinly sliced
Handful of pimento stuffed olives

Remove the woody ends of the asparagus spears and place the asparagus into boiling salted water with the eggs. After 3 minutes remove the eggs and place them into egg cups. After a further 2 minutes, remove the asparagus and place on a plate, sprinkling them with the sea salt. Serve the asparagus by wrapping them in a piece of salami and dipping them into the eggs, or just eat the salami separately. Olives are on the side as palate cleansers.

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