ASPARAGUS, EGGS & MISO
Recipes & recipe intros Kelda Hains / Food photography Aaron McLean Still-life photography Tony Nyberg / Styling Fiona Lascelles
For me, asparagus with eggs is almost the perfect spring dish. It’s pretty much the only time of the year we make hollandaise, because it ties the two together perfectly. Recently, we’ve been adding ginger to the reduction and miso to the finished sauce. Miso is very good with asparagus; one of those combinations that just works. Making hollandaise is a bit of a production and if it’s not for you, a miso aioli or vinaigrette (see below) is worth trying on an asparagus salad, if only to appreciate how well they work together.
600g asparagus 4 eggs miso hollandaise (recipe follows) sesame & buckwheat sprinkle (recipe follows)
Soak the asparagus in cold water, and snap the ends. Bring two largish pots of well-salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus to one pot and boil for 3½ minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
Bring the other pot of water to a simmer, then turn down the heat. When the water stops moving, gently crack in the eggs. Let the eggs cook without the water boiling again. This should take about 3 minutes. While the eggs are poaching, place the asparagus on four warm plates. When the eggs are done, scoop them from the water with a slotted spoon. Drain each egg well, and place on the asparagus. Cover the egg with a generous spoonful of miso hollandaise, and then a tablespoon of the sesame and buckwheat sprinkle.
Here is the proper recipe for hollandaise. There are quicker ways to make it, but they’re not as delicious! This method requires a bit more attention and more whisking, but it’s worth it. This is the smallest amount of hollandaise you would want to make, and will be a generous serving for 4.
I prefer to use white miso in this particular recipe. It’s lighter and sweeter in flavour, and less salty than other types.
FOR THE REDUCTION
50g fresh ginger 1 shallot ½ cup white wine ¼ cup cider vinegar 8 peppercorns
Slice the ginger and shallot finely and put in a small pan with the wine, vinegar and peppercorns. Cook slowly, until the liquid has reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Strain and set aside.
FOR THE SAUCE
200g salted butter 2 egg yolks 50g white miso
Melt the butter and keep it warm. Put the egg yolks and the reduction into a stainless steel bowl that fits over a saucepan. Bring a little water in the saucepan to a simmer. Keeping the heat very low, set the bowl on top. The water shouldn’t touch the bottom of the bowl; the steam is sufficient to cook the mixture. Whisk the egg yolk mixture continuously when it’s on the heat. The hollandaise will foam and produce large bubbles. As you whisk, the bubbles will get smaller and smaller, and the mixture will become glossy. It’s ready when you can draw a figure 8 that holds its shape on top.
If you apply too much heat at this stage, the mixture will scramble. If necessary, shift your whole set-up off the element and use the residual heat from the saucepan of water.
Take the egg yolk mixture off the heat and slowly whisk in the melted butter. Start with just a few drops of butter, gradually increasing the amount, but never more than you can incorporate with a few turns of the whisk. Whisk in the miso. Taste and adjust the salt. If it seems too salty, you can add a squeeze of lemon. Set aside, covered, for up to 30 minutes in a warm place – over the saucepan of warm water is a good option.
SESAME & BUCKWHEAT SPRINKLE
This is an additional embellishment, and although it’s not entirely necessary, it brings some interesting texture to the plate, as well as adding another layer of flavour. It’s good in asparagus salads, too.
¼ cup sesame seeds 10g dried farmed wakame ½ dried chilli, seeds removed ¼ cup buckwheat groats 1 tablespoon oil flaky sea salt
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until they’re light brown. Grind the wakame and chilli, and add these to the seeds with a little salt.
Boil the buckwheat groats for 7-8 minutes. They will still be underdone at this stage. Drain them well.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the buckwheat until it’s crunchy and light brown. Set it aside on a paper towel to cool and to drain any excess oil. Add it to the sesame mix, and taste for salt.
This lets you enjoy the miso-asparagus combination without all the whisking palaver. I use this on an asparagus salad, sometimes with the addition of soba noodles. It’s good with spinach, beans and eggplant, too. Umeboshi is vinegar made from sour plums. You can replace it with 1½ teaspoons of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon of sherry vinegar.
fresh ginger 30g/2 tablespoons white miso 1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar 1 tablespoon water 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Grate the ginger finely to make about 1 teaspoon, then whisk all the ingredients together.