Asparagus with Parma Ham, Soft-boiled Eggs & Parmesan
If we leave aside the fact that summer has disappeared, rain and cold have returned with a vengeance and I’ve had to put my central heating on again … well, foodwise, this is a wonderful time of the year: there’s nothing like English asparagus and English strawberries, both in season, and you just have to grab as much of them and enjoy them in season while you can.
One of my favourite pizzas on the old Pizza Express menu – I was in one in Mayfair on Friday night and the menu had changed significantly – was Pizza Parmense. As the name suggests, there was a strong ‘Parma’ theme. It was basically a pizza topped with fresh asparagus, Parma ham, soft cooked egg and Parmesan cheese. Well, of course, you can see where I’m going with this …
I couldn’t resist the lovely organic asparagus I saw yesterday so decided on this simple supper tonight.
The whole thing is ready in minutes. I steamed the asparagus, with just a sprinkling of salt over the top, till just tender; slightly al dente. Meanwhile, I soft-boiled two eggs. You could fry them but I’m not into fried eggs; you could also poach them, but I seem to have forgotten how to do it. I remember being able to poach eggs well as a teenager; my father taught me. I came from a family of pub owners and caterers and all the men in my family can cook well. Even the ones who have chosen different careers … My father was my partner in gastronomic crime when I was growing up and it came down to hunting out good food and wines.
Back to supper … just assemble it all: put some slices of good Parma ham on the plate; lay the cooked asparagus carefully beside it. When the eggs are ready, run cold water into the pan till you can handle them and take the shells off. Then lay them on top of the asparagus and carefully break them open so the soft egg yolk inside nicely spills across the asparagus. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil. Then shave some Parmesan on top and finish off with a good grating of black pepper. I also had some nice crusty French bread to mop up the juices. And there you are: a simple and very delicious supper, ready in just a few minutes.