- 500g asparagus or about 24 spears, depending on thickness
- 3 egg yolks
- 200g cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- A sprig of tarragon, leaves finely chopped
- Cayenne or black pepper
- 4 slices of sourdough bread
Chop the woody ends from the asparagus – I don’t snap mine off as so many recipes suggest because you seem to lose more flesh than necessary. In fact, I love to eat asparagus with my fingers and the tough little stump is good to hang on to, so I sometimes don’t trim the stalks at all.
To make the sauce, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and then place a bowl (glass or ceramic will temper the heat better than metal) on top to create a bain-marie. Now turn the heat right down, add the egg yolks and 1 tbsp water, and season with a little cayenne or black pepper and a pinch of salt, whisking until smooth.
Add the cubes of butter three or four at a time, whisking as they melt and emulsify into the egg. Continue adding more butter until it is all absorbed and you have a thick and creamy sauce. Whisk in a little lemon juice, tarragon and seasoning to taste. You can set the sauce aside in the bain-marie to keep warm for up to 20 mins or pour it into a small thermos flask.
Now to cook the asparagus. Plunge the stalks into a large pan of boiling, salted water and cook for anything between 3-8 mins until tender, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Drain well and place on a kitchen towel for a moment, so as not to waterlog your toast. Meanwhile, get the toast on.
Serve the asparagus piled on the toast and pour over the hollandaise at the very last moment (to avoid a rather unappetising skin forming). You could add a slice of cooked ham to the toast for a more substantial meal.
Image: Kim Lightbody