Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Asparagus and Duck Eggs

Some time last year we had lunch at the endlessly fabulous Canton Arms and were a bit puzzled about one of the starters - home cured guanciale with fresh peaches. Didn't know what guanciale was, or how to pronounce it so I pointed to the menu and asked the waiter. It's lovely, he said, pork and a bit like pancetta, made from pig's cheeks - only different. Gave it a try and wow, it really was good.

Next time I was at Gastronomica I asked if they had any - except I mangled the pronunciation so severely they didn't  have a clue. Tried to explain it but that didn't really help so we had finnochiana instead - they'd taught me already to pronounce that!

A few months later, again at the Canton, there it was on the menu again. We were sitting up at the bar and the owner, Charlie, was serving. Couldn't resist, I pointed to the menu and said how do I say this? He laughed and said he wasn't entirely sure himself but he always calls it 'gwan Charlie! It tasted just as good as the first time. So the next time I was at Gastronomica I tried it - do you have gwan Charlie!? It worked, I was understood - and then told how to pronounce it properly. Turns out the 'gwan bit is pretty accurate but the rest is chi-arlie. Bought some immediately, thinking wrapped around grissini it would be a fine treat. But it was a little thick for that, so I abandoned it to the freezer.

This week is the third week of asparagus season, one of my favourite times of the year. Bought a lovely bunch from Chegworths and some duck eggs for dipping. Then I remembered the guanciale and this elegant dish was born.

Asparagus and Duck Egg

1 bunch fresh asparagus, the base snapped off and discarded
a dozen thin slices of guanciale, or parma ham or pancetta
2 duck eggs

Heat a ridged grill pan for a few minutes till quite hot. Put a pan of water on to boil.

Wrap the meat around the asparagus. When the water comes to the boil, carefully put the eggs in using a slotted spoon. Make a note of the time, they need 6 minutes. As soon as the eggs are on, lay the asparagus in the hot pan. After a couple of minutes, turn the asparagus so that the meat crisps all over.

Remove the eggs from the boiling water, put them into pretty egg cups and cut the top off. Strew the asparagus about artfully. Dip the hot spears into the hot egg yolk. Finish with some crusty bread.


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