I was so excited to see a bunch of fresh organic asparagus on Waitrose’s shelves yesterday that I didn’t stop to think that it wasn’t yet asparagus season in UK. That doesn’t start until St George’s Day, 23 April, and lasts only a couple of months. It’s some time since Waitrose went into partnership with Duchy Originals, the Prince of Wales’s range of organic foods, but I still see them and think, Local, British, Homegrown. Actually the asparagus comes from Mexico. Waitrose just uses the name for all their organic things. But the Prince of Wales is still connected and his share of the company gives their profits to charity.
Whether it was Mexican or not, it was still a delicious treat and I also bought some Duchy Organic salmon to go with it. I don’t ask if salmon is organic when I’m out but I only ever buy organic (or wild in season from the local fishmonger). The poor salmon has been much abused by farming techniques to make it cheap but generally it’s tasteless and I’m not convinced that healthy because of all the horrendous additives.
The weather wasn’t really cooperating with my summery thoughts but I was not put off. I decided to up the game and make some hollandaise sauce to accompany the meal. I’m not sure if I’ve ever made it before; if I have, not for a long time. It’s not that difficult. And I found a ‘quick’ version in an old Sophie Grigson book to make in a processor. I looked at some other recipes online and found there were two clear messages in all of them (including Sophie’s) and that was: hollandaise sauce has to be served straight away, and it doesn’t tolerate well being reheated. Good timing skills were required them. Good job it was only me I had to worry about. One thing I hadn’t reckoned on was having no eggs in my fridge. I always have eggs. But not tonight. I was tempted to give up. But no. Less than 5 minutes walk away is a Tesco Express. I wrapped up again (it’s cold and windy out) and went to buy eggs. All ready to go.
Every recipe I found used 2 eggs to make enough sauce for 4. But if you can’t reheat it and you’re just one, then what’s the point of wasting three portions! So I took the risk of halving the measurements.
But before I got started – with all those timing issues! – I prepared the salmon and asparagus. The salmon I wanted to grill very simply, brushing over some olive oil and seasoning lightly.
It would only need 5 minutes or so under a hot grill. I like it to be pink in the middle. I got it ready to go under the grill and then prepared the asparagus. Don’t cut off the ends, but hold the asparagus and gently break and the spears will break at exactly the best place. I then put it in a steamer and sprinkled over a little sea salt.
Then I started to prepare the hollandaise sauce by measuring out the butter into a pan and adding the egg yolk and other ingredients to a mini processor. Once this was done, I put my salmon under the grill and turned the asparagus on. It might not all come together at exactly the same time but near enough and would keep warm enough for a couple of minutes.
Hollandaise Sauce (2 portions)
- 55g butter (preferably unsalted)
- 1 egg yolk
- ¾ tablespoon water
- lemon juice
- salt and pepper
Slowly warm the butter and as soon as it’s melted turn off the heat. You don’t want it bubbling hot. Put the egg yolk, water and a good squeeze of lemon juice into the processor bowl with salt and pepper. Whisk until well blended. Keep the motor running and very slowly and gently pour the warm melted butter into the jar. About halfway through add another squeeze of lemon (not sure why but this is what Sophie said!). Finish adding the butter.
Taste and check seasoning. I had a small bowl ready over a pan of hot water ready to keep it warm for just a couple of minutes while I plated the salmon and asparagus. Don’t have the pan simmering over heat though or your sauce will separate.
Lay the salmon on a warm plate. Carefully lay the asparagus alongside it. Then spoon over the warm hollandaise. Mine had thickened but wasn’t particularly thick – maybe if I hadn’t halved the recipe it might have thickened more. But it was OK. And it tasted wonderful with the salmon and asparagus. A truly gorgeous supper bringing a breath of summer into the house – if I ignored the weather outside!
For a little dessert, I couldn’t resist opening the pot of amazing chocolate spread I’d brought back from Turin on Monday. I bought this on my last trip in Baratti & Milano, one of Turin’s historic cafes (click here for more) and this last time, last weekend, I just had to buy more. I even gave up the option of taking my small suitcase into the cabin and checked it in, because in Turin airport, chocolate spread is listed on a huge poster as one of the things not allowed in hand luggage!
Last time I made the mistake of only buying one pot. It didn’t last long. Although I did have Jonathan and Lyndsey living with me at the time. So this time I got family members their own pots so I have mine just for me. I know! That sounds mean and of course I would share. But most of the time it’s just me here. Now this may be a chocolate and hazelnut spread, and it may come from Turin, but never put it in the same sentence. As Nutella. It’s just leagues ahead. It contains 45% hazelnuts and glorious chocolate. When I opened the pot, the smell was amazing even before I tasted it.
For the simplest of desserts, I spooned some thick Greek yoghurt into a bowl, put some raspberries on top, then a spoonful of the chocolate spread.
Delicious! What a great supper.