Asparagus Custards with Creamed Morels

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Asparagus Custards with Creamed Morels

Make the most of asparagus season with this stunning starter from How to Cook.

Ingredients

Serves 6 as a starter

For the asparagus custard
300g asparagus
250ml vegetable stock
200ml milk
100ml double cream
3 eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the creamed morels
30g dried morels (or fresh if you can get them)
1 shallot
20g butter
¼ bunch of chives
100ml double cream
Few drops of lemon juice

To serve
6 asparagus spears
1–2 tsp lemon oil

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 150ºC/gas mark 2.
  2. If using dried morels, soak them in plenty of boiling water for 30–45 minutes until soft and tender. If fresh, brush or wipe them carefully to remove any grit.
  3. For the asparagus custard, snap off the woody ends of the asparagus spears. Put the stock into a saucepan, bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until it is just softened and still retaining its colour. Remove from the pan, reserving the stock, and refresh in cold water to preserve its colour.
  4. Transfer the asparagus to a food processor or blender and purée until completely smooth, adding a little of the reserved stock only if necessary to obtain a thick, spoonable consistency.
  5. Put the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to scalding point over a medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a bowl. Gradually pour the hot milk and cream over the eggs, stirring all the time. Add the asparagus purée, taste and season with salt and pepper. Half-fill 6 ramekins or individual gratin dishes with the mixture.
  6. Half-fill a roasting tin with hot water to make a bain marie. Carefully stand the ramekins or gratin dishes in the bain marie and bake in the oven, allowing 20–25 minutes for ramekins or 15–20 minutes for gratin dishes. To check, lightly shake a ramekin or gratin dish; the custard should have a uniform wobble and have formed a skin.
  7. While the custards are cooking, prepare the creamed morels. Halve, peel and finely dice the shallot. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the shallot, cover and sweat until soft and translucent. Finely chop enough chives to give you 1 tsp.
  8. When the shallot is soft, drain the morels well, straining and reserving the soaking water. Squeeze the morels to remove excess water. If large, halve or quarter them. Add to the shallots and sauté for 3–4 minutes without allowing the shallots to burn. (Cook fresh morels in the same way.) Add the cream and simmer gently for another 3–4 minutes. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice, then add the chives. If the cream gets too thick, add a splash of the reserved morel soaking liquor.
  9. Use a swivel peeler to shave the 6 asparagus spears into long ribbons. Blanch them in boiling salted water for 10–20 seconds, then refresh in cold water, drain and toss in a bowl with the lemon oil and some salt and pepper.
  10. When the custards are cooked, remove the ramekins or gratin dishes from the bain marie and place one on each plate. Spoon a little of the creamed morels on top of the custards and garnish with the asparagus ribbons. Drizzle a little lemon oil over the custards and morels and serve immediately.

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