British asparagus has a short season from April to June so make the most of it while it's here !

  • 15 mins
  • 6
  • Easy
I love duck’s eggs. They are larger than hen’s eggs, so need a few more minutes to cook. Hollandaise is a simple sauce that can go wrong very easily, but it needn’t with just a few rules: melt the butter, cool it, then add it to the eggs slowly.


  • For the asparagus, ham and eggs
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 4 duck’s eggs
  • 16 asparagus stalks, stems peeled and trimmed
  • a little olive oil
  • 8 slices cured ham, ideally Pata Negra, or serrano or parma
  • For the hollandaise
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 large free-range (hen’s) egg yolks


First, poach the eggs. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the vinegar. Whisk the water to create a whirlpool and crack an egg into the vortex. Simmer for three to four minutes, then carefully lift the egg out and place into a bowl of iced water. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Set aside the pan and its water.

For the hollandaise, place the butter in a hot saucepan, then turn the heat off and set aside. Place the vinegar, shallot and peppercorns in a separate small pan and heat until just boiling, then simmer until reduced by half.

Place the egg yolks into a food processor with a pinch of salt and turn on. With the motor running, add the hot lemon and vinegar, then slowly add the melted butter – drip by drip at first – until it is all incorporated. Pour into a bowl, season to taste, then cover and keep warm in a bowl set over a pan of hot water.

Working quickly, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the asparagus and simmer for three to four minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus, until tender when pierced with a knife. Lift out of the water and drain on kitchen paper.

Return the eggs and heat for 20-30 seconds, then drain on kitchen paper.

Divide the asparagus between four plates, top each with an egg and slivers of the ham, then spoon over some warm hollandaise. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper and serve.

About The Author

Presenter of the BBC's Saturday Kitchen and formerly a regular team member of Ready Steady Cook, Malton-born James Martin is one of the UK's most poplar TV chefs.

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