Portion/Yield:Serves 6 as a starter or light lunch
Late spring/early summer is a wonderful time of the year, especially as it brings us the taste of fresh asparagus. Early on in the season the asparagus is at its sweetest and most tender. The British asparagus season is short but when it’s here we truly embrace it! Simplicity is key when serving asparagus and for me, a humble soft-boiled egg is the best companion, be it a hen or duck egg, served with plenty of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
This Cheddar brûlées recipe is one of the simpler recipes that highlights the fantastic taste of fresh asparagus. It’s easy to prepare and is impressive to serve, providing some extra ‘wow’ factor at the dining table.
Ingredients & Method
- 200ml double cream
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 40g mature Cheddar cheese, finely grated (I like to use a strong Cheddar like Montgomery or Keens, but perhaps choose one locally produced in your region)
- 36 thin asparagus spears, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons Sorrel Pesto
- 1 tablespoon demerara sugar
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- fresh chive flowers, to garnish (optional – see Cook’s Notes)
First, prepare the Cheddar brûlées. Place 6 x 150ml swing-top glass jars (or ramekins) on a tray in the fridge. Half-fill a saucepan with water and bring up to a gentle simmer, then choose a heatproof mixing bowl that will sit comfortably over the saucepan without slipping down inside the pan (you also want to make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not come into contact with the simmering water underneath).
Place the cream, eggs, cheese and salt and pepper in the heatproof bowl and whisk together briefly until well mixed. Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water. Heat gently, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the mixture starts to thicken, then continue to cook gently for about 14 minutes or until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon; do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle. Once cooked, remove from the heat and immediately pour the brûlée mixture into the chilled serving jars, dividing evenly. Carefully return the brûlées to the fridge and leave to set overnight.
The next day, once the brûlées are set and ready to serve, cook the asparagus spears. Cook the asparagus in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 2–3 minutes or until just tender, then drain. Place the asparagus in a large bowl, add the sorrel pesto and toss to mix, then divide between serving plates and set to one side.
Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the brûlées and use a blowtorch to caramelise the sugar (see Cook’s Notes). Serve immediately with the warm asparagus spears, then scatter over the chive flowers to garnish, if you like.
If you have a double boiler, you can use this to cook the mixture for the Cheddar brûlées, if you like. If you don’t have a blowtorch, simply place the sugar-sprinkled brûlées under a preheated hot grill and grill for 1½–2 minutes or until the sugar is caramelised.
Fresh chive flowers are a beautiful, bright purple-blue colour and they make a striking garnish. Not only are they edible and pretty to look, if planted in the garden, they attract bees, encouraging pollination, and they are also planted to repel and control some unwanted insects and pests. I love using them in my recipes, as they are so pretty and taste wonderful, but don’t be fooled as they are quite potent and strong-tasting too, so use sparingly.