Asparagus au gratin

Fresh asparagus, creamy sauce and a crisp cheese-crumb topping make heavenly eating in this delightful recipe from Sophie's mum, Jane Grigson
By Sophie Grigson
Asparagus au gratin
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 6 (as a starter)
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Effort: medium

Ingredients

Main

  • 450 g asparagus, English
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 220 ml milk, hot
  • 2 slices cooked ham, chopped (optional)
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • 1 pinches black pepper
  • 1 pinches nutmeg, to taste
  • 6 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
  • 60 g gruyère cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs

Method

1. Trim the asparagus and cook in a wide pan of lightly salted water until just tender. Drain well, and save 220ml of the cooking water to use in the sauce.


2. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and stir in the flour. Keep stirring for about 1 minute. Draw off the heat and add the milk, a little at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition.


3. Stir in the measured asparagus water in larger splashes, until it has all been incorporated. Simmer gently for at least 15 minutes until thick. Stir in the ham and cream. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg.


4. Arrange the asparagus in an oval gratin dish with the sliced hard-boiled egg on top. Pour the sauce over them, leaving a clear 1/2cm at the top of the dish, or the sauce will boil over and make a mess.


5. Set the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together and scatter them on top of the sauce.


6. Dribble the melted butter over them and bake for about 20 minutes until the dish is bubbling and brown (this can also be done under the grill as long as both the asparagus and the sauce are still warm).

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