We have just returned from a holiday in the Highlands to find that Bristol has literally sprung from spring to summer during the course of week. In Scotland the trees were barely in bud and the wind was still bitter, whilst at home the woods below our house have turned the bright acid green that signals the true end to winter. The wisteria growing up the front of the house, my botanical pride and joy and a mothers day present from my little boy 4 years ago, is in full bloom now, looking and smelling amazing. The flowers last barely two weeks yet I spend all year anticipating the glorious explosion of purple and white.
The chickens have been looked after by friends who happily have been rewarded amply with eggs. It is the first time they have been left that long and I was a little anxious about it. One of the conditions placed upon their arrival was that we could still find plenty of time for family adventures and wouldn’t be tied to the house over the holidays, so it is with great relief to find they have been utterly content without us.
We came back from holiday to find the asparagus season has started early thanks to near-perfect weather conditions. Like the flowering of my wisteria, the start of the English asparagus season is something I long for every year. It is one of those rare things that I refuse to buy if its not in season. Spanish strawberries I can deal with occasionally, Peruvian asparagus I cannot and it never enters my shopping basket. Once the season starts I eat plenty, several times a week, to get my fill. Luckily it is a natural partner to eggs and I can think of numerous ways to make the most of it - a variety of wonderful tarts and quiches, cheesy asparagus muffins and asparagus ‘soldiers’ for boiled eggs, to name but a few.
But the house is in post-holiday chaos, the washing is spilling in huge piles all over the floor and I have no time for pastry this week. Plus, the sun is shining warmly, the garden looks gorgeous and this is to be the first al fresco evening meal of the year. So it is a simple quick salad I turn too. Using a few odds and sods foraged from a bare fridge, some stale bread and, most satisfyingly, handfuls of salad leaves from the first harvest of the garden.
It was all ready in a matter of minutes and up the garden we went, glass of wine in hand, thanking the chickens for their contribution to our supper as we passed them by…... and yes, you have a little picture, a bit gloomy, it was dusk by the time we ate.
Crispy bacon, asparagus & egg salad with creamy mustard dressing
8 rashers smoked streaky bacon
1 bunch English asparagus, woody ends trimmed
2 generous handfuls salad leaves
sourdough would also be nice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled & bruised
for the dressing:
2 tbsp good-quality mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
Cook the bacon until crisp, either by frying or grilling, then chop into bite sized pieces.
To make the croutons, heat the oil in a frying pan along with the bruised garlic. When the garlic turns a golden brown, remove and discard it. Add the cubes of bread and fry until crisp, tossing about in the oil to ensure they are evenly cooked.
Boil the eggs to your liking - I like mine pretty much hard boiled all the way through, so cook them in a pan of cold water brought up to the boil and simmered for 5 minutes. If you like your eggs soft, cook for 3 minutes, or 4 minutes for a midway point between the two. Peel and quarter.
Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl, adding the vinegar to taste depending on how sharp you like it. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
Bring a large pan of salted water up to a brisk boil. Cook the asparagus for 3-4 minutes or until just tender but with a little bite. Drain well.
Assemble the salad by arranging the leaves on a plate, topping with the bacon pieces, egg quarters, croutons and asparagus. Finally drizzle over the dressing and eat immediately.