The asparagus season officially starts in 54 days. In preparation for the start of the season, head chef Tom Fraser from the new Clapton local, Verden, has given Spear’s a wonderful recipe for English asparagus with pancetta and crispy duck egg. You can practice with imported spears until the wonderful British crop comes through, or, if you would like to keep things seasonal, I can imagine this would work very well with leeks. Simply boil them whole, slice down the middle when done and sauté them for a few minutes cut side down in some salted butter. Perfect for Saint David’s day this Sunday.
English asparagus, pancetta, crispy duck egg
This is a great spring starter, where the majority of the work can be done in advance.
16 English asparagus spears
4 duck eggs
12 slices of pancetta
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of cracked black pepper
Pinch of Maldon sea salt
2 good handfuls of panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
1 handful of plain flour
2 regular hens eggs
A glug of good quality olive oil
1. Prepare the eggs in advance. Fill a bowl with ice water and put to one side.
Bring a deep pan of salted water to the simmer, crack your duck eggs and gently drop them in, making sure to keep them spaced apart. Do two batches if necessary. Once the eggs are set on the outside but still soft to the touch, remove with a slotted spoon and drop into the ice water to stop the cooking process.
2. Once chilled, remove the eggs from the water and place on a kitchen towel to dry. In three separate bowls, add your breadcrumbs, flour and beaten hens eggs. One at a time, gently roll your poached duck eggs in the flour, then the eggs, and then the breadcrumbs, ensuring they are evenly coated. Repeat the process if necessary.
3. Lay your pancetta on a baking tray and place under a medium-hot grill or in the oven until crisp.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cut of any woody ends from the base of the asparagus stalks and discard.
5. Preheat a fryer to 180 Celsius. If you don’t have a fryer, you can heat a pan of oil on the stove.
6. Add your asparagus to the rapidly boiling water. Cook until al dente. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the asparagus. While the asparagus is cooking, gently lower the duck eggs into the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp.
7. Remove the asparagus from the water and into a large bowl. Toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning.
8. Carefully remove the eggs from the oil and drain on some kitchen paper for a few seconds. Season with Maldon salt. Divide the asparagus between four plates, top with the crisp pancetta and finish with the fried duck egg. Once cut open, the yolk should ooze out creating a rich sauce to coat the asparagus.