Asparagus Timbale

This savoury asparagus custard, accompanied by Hollandaise sauce, makes an excellent light lunch or supper dish, or may be served as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish. It can be prepared in advance and reheated before serving.

1 lb. fresh, boiled asparagus, or

1 lb. frozen asparagus eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

4 fl. oz. single cream

8 fl. oz. chicken stock or milk

1 tablespoons wine vinegar peppercorns

1 bay leaf

3 egg yolks

6 oz. butter pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to warm 325°F (Gas Mark 3, 170°C). Lightly butter a 21/2-pint ring mould or souffle dish.

If you are using fresh asparagus, cut off tough part of the stalks and discard.

Cut the asparagus into 4-inch pieces and set aside. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, using a whisk or rotary beater, whisk the eggs with the salt and grated nutmeg. Gradually add the cream and the stock, or milk, beating all the time. Fold in the asparagus pieces.

Pour the mixture into the greased mould or souffle dish. Place the mould or souffle dish in a baking pan of boiling water and bake for 35 minutes, or until the custard is set. Test by plunging a warm, dry knife into the centre of the custard.

If it comes out clean, the custard is set. If you use a ring mould, test the custard after 20 minutes of cooking.

Remove the custard from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes. Run a knife round the edge of the custard and un-mould it on to a heated serving dish.

While the custard is cooking, make the sauce. Put the vinegar, peppercorns and bay leaf in a small saucepan and cook, over moderate heat, until the vinegar is reduced to 1 ½ tablespoons. Strain and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat the butter until it is soft. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk or wooden spoon.

Add a heaped teaspoon of softened butter and a pinch of salt to the egg yolks. Cream well. Stir in the strained vinegar.

Put the bowl in a saucepan containing warm water and place over low heat. The water should heat gradually, but never come to boiling point. Stir the mixture until it begins to thicken. Add the remaining butter, cut in small pieces, stirring continually. When all the butter has been added, taste the sauce. Add a little more salt if necessary. If the sauce is too sharp, add a little more butter. If the sauce is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of cream to dilute it. Serve the sauce separately.

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