Soft-boiled Gull Eggs, Asparagus, Broad Beans and Pecorino Foam recipe by John Williams, The Ritz London

John Williams

John Williams

6th September 2018

Soft-boiled Gull Eggs, Asparagus, Broad Beans and Pecorino Foam recipe by John Williams, The Ritz London

A first course that unites some of my favourite ingredients of spring. Seagulls’ eggs – the most flavoursome eggs in the world – are a little gamey and with a slight taste of the sea. As a nation, we should sing about them. Here, they are served hot, with soft, runny yolks. As for English asparagus, there’s nothing quite like it. Do you peel the spears or don’t you? I like to remove the top layer of skin as I find this gives a cleaner taste and improved texture. I cook them swiftly in salted water, with butter and a little sugar; when the liquid has evaporated the asparagus is done and is coated in a buttery sheen. The pecorino foam is suitably light for this time of year.

Ingredients

  • 6 gulls’ eggs (or hens’ eggs) | sea salt
  • flakes and pepper
  • For the Pecorino foam
  • 50ml (2f l oz) olive oil | 20g (¾oz)
  • butter | 60g (2¼oz) shallots, roughly
  • chopped | ½ celery stick, finely sliced |
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed | 50g (1¾oz)
  • button mushrooms, trimmed and
  • finely sliced | 6 black peppercorns |
  • 50ml (2f l oz) dry white wine | 4 tbsp
  • Nage (see page 76) | 400ml (14f l oz)
  • milk | 4 tbsp double cream | 450g
  • (1lb) pecorino cheese, grated
  • For the asparagus
  • 18 green and 24 wild asparagus
  • spears (or just use green) | 2 pinches
  • of salt | 2 pinches of caster sugar |
  • 40g (1½oz) butter
  • For the morels
  • 18 morels, cleaned and stalks
  • trimmed | 20g (¾oz) butter | about
  • 100ml (3½fl oz) water | 100ml (3½fl oz)
  • Chicken Stock (see page 228)
  • For the purée & glazing
  • 120g (4¼oz) broad beans, skinned |
  • 40g (1½oz) butter | 50g (1¾oz) peas |
  • 100ml (3½f l oz) Chicken or Veal
  • Stock (see pages 228 and 230)
  • To finish (optional)
  • 10 bean f lowers | wild garlic f lowers |
  • 50g (1¾oz) mixed wild herbs, such
  • as wild chervil or wood sorrel

Method

SERVES 6 (or 3, if you fancy a couple of eggs each)
To make the Pecorino foam
Heat the oil in a large sauté or frying pan.
Add the butter, then the shallots and sweat them over a medium-low heat until softened but not browned. Stir in the celery, garlic and mushrooms. Add the peppercorns and season with salt, then pour in the wine and leave to bubble away until reduced by half. Stir in the nage and, again, reduce by half. Add the milk and cream and bring to the boil.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes (or to 70˚C/158°F) before returning the pan to the heat and adding the Pecorino. Remove from the heat, leave to infuse for 30 minutes then pass through a fine-mesh sieve, stir well and set aside. Immediately before serving, use a stick blender to aerate the sauce to make it foamy.
To braise the asparagus
Break the asparagus spears at their weakest point to ensure tenderness. Peel off the outer skin of the asparagus stems and slice about 4cm (1½ inches) from the base to ensure every piece is succulent. Reserve the trimmed pieces for the purée. Place the green asparagus spears in a pan of water so that they are submerged by three-quarters. Add half the salt, sugar and butter and cook over a high heat for 3–4 minutes, or until tender.
Set aside. Repeat the process with the wild asparagus, but cook these for only 1 minute.
To braise the morels
In a pan, braise the morels in the butter and measured water over a medium-low heat for 2–3 minutes. Pour in the stock. Cook for 5 minutes, turning the morels gently in the stock until they are perfectly glazed and have absorbed the stock’s flavours. Set aside.
Next, the purée
Add the beans to a large pan of boiling salted water. Cook for 3 minutes until tender.
Drain and set aside. Cook the asparagus trimmings in the same way.
Using a stick blender, blend the asparagus trimmings with one-quarter of the beans to form a purée. Mix in half the butter and season to your taste.
In a frying pan over a high heat, melt the remaining butter, add the reserved beans and the peas, then pour in the stock. Turn the beans and peas so that they are well coated and glazed. Set aside.
Finally, the glorious gulls’ eggs
Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and carefully lower in the eggs.
Cook for 4½ minutes. Shell the eggs in a bowl of icy water, then they’re ready to serve.
To finish
Spoon the purée into the centre of each plate.
Top with the eggs, add the asparagus and morels, scatter with the glazed beans and peas, flowers and herbs, if using, then spoon over the Pecorino foam. Serve this dish hot.

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