I suppose we’re still in the last throes of the “hungry gap”, but today’s farmers’ market gives me a joyous sniff of the great things to come. Wood pigeon fattened on early rape; the creamiest lemony young goat’s curd – a happy by-product of lush, wet April grass; purple-green asparagus, in the rudest of health picked this morning form the sandy soil of Evesham; local new potatoes that give the now much overrated Jersey Royal a run for its (vast sums of) money. There’s a lady selling bunches of sweet peas too. Summer cannot be too far away now. With eggs and tiny leaves from the garden we have the makings of a supper to match no other.
A lot of chefs now talk about their menus being ‘ingredient lead’, which whilst it may be faddish whimsy, in my opinion can only be a good thing, so long as these chefs know what they’re doing with their ingredients.
I shall happily salute a huge Fuck Off to cooks who persist with unnecessary smears, foams, jus, and all that bollocks. Plates look good with food on them. Pictures look good with smears and jus. We’re at the start of the worst economic wobble in living memory. Why should we be paying for air and smugness?
Asparagus with goat’s curd
I think the worst thing that can be done to asparagus is under-cooking. Cooking it brings out the sugars and general asparagusiness. Give fat stalks at least five minutes in rapidly boiling water.
Drain the asparagus, dollop curd, or young goat’s cheese over it, season, and shuffle all around in the pan.
Pigeon, bacon and potato salad.
In a big, beautiful, flattish white plate throw some small, sexy salad leaves. It matters not what. My choice would be a mix of chard, little gem and mizuna.
Get the tiniest spuds, not much bigger than a thumbnail and boil until tender. Keep them nice and warm. Slice some good smoked bacon into small pieces and fry in a little oil until crispy and brown. Keep that nice and warm too.
In the bacon fat fry as many pigeon breasts as you need (two per person should do it as a main course) for three minutes on each side. Keep them warm also.
At this point, poach one egg per person.
With the heat still gently on beneath your pigeon pan, whisk in the smallest slosh of good olive oil, a little French mustard and a gesture of white wine vinegar or lemon juice.
Chuck spuds, bacon and pigeon (slice it up first) on top of the leaves, add your warm dressing and stir around vigorously. Put on pretty plates and plonk a poacher on top. You will not often get a finer supper.