Rachel Roddy’s recipe for new potatoes, eggs, asparagus and green sauce

<span>Spring pickings: Rachel Roddy’s potatoes, eggs, asparagus and green sauce.</span><span>Photograph: Rachel Roddy/The Guardian</span>
Spring pickings: Rachel Roddy’s potatoes, eggs, asparagus and green sauce.Photograph: Rachel Roddy/The Guardian

In favourable conditions (warm and sunny, but sheltered), asparagus can grow several inches a day. The Canadian Food Focus website claims a fantastic 15cm in 24 hours – which must also be noisy, if you have an ear close enough. Even if the reality is half that, it’s enough for me to consider spending a day in a field of it. I would need to lie down low – on an inflatable lilo, maybe – with a small cushion and a flask of coffee and whisky. I would need to have a penknife, too, so I could cut the spears when they reach the perfect height, which is often at midnight.

The boiling time of asparagus varies according to its thickness and how recently it was picked. Broadly speaking, though, string-thin spears need 30 seconds, pencil-thick ones a minute or two, little-finger size ones two to three minutes, and jumbo, thumb-thick spears up to seven minutes, or longer if they are older and therefore tougher. If your bunch is made up of neat, evenly sized spears, it’s simple to calculate the boiling time, but if your bunch is a mismatched one, a bit of sorting is worthwhile, so you can stagger the cooking times with the new potatoes. Regardless of size, it’s important that the salted water is at a steady boil and that the asparagus remains bright green (if they lose that colour and turn khaki, that’s a sign of overcooking). The cooked spears should also hold their shape – soldiers standing at ease, as opposed to rag dolls.

But before cooking is trimming, for which there are two schools of thought. The first is to use a potato peeler to pare away the outer layers of the tough woody ends, which makes the asparagus look a bit like a sharpened pencil. The other way is to bend the spear until it breaks at the point between tough and tender, which can seem wasteful, but is generally spot on, and the way I prefer. Also, those woody ends can be kept in the fridge, along with parsley and basil stems, for that stock that never gets made.

Pull the leaves off a small bunch of basil and a small bunch of parsley to make a salsa verde, or green sauce. I have written about salsa verde before – how the proportions of ingredients depend on how strongly flavoured they are, and on your personal taste – so treat this recipe from the reliable Ricette Regionali Italiane as an adaptable template. Serve at any time, and also just after midnight.

Potatoes, eggs, asparagus and green sauce

Serves 4

1 small bunch basil
1 small bunch parsley
3-5 anchovy fillets
, to taste
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp capers, drained
40g pine nuts, or almonds
100-150ml olive oil
1 kg small waxy potatoes
, scrubbed or peeled (halved if big)
1 small bunch asparagus
6 eggs, fridge-cold
Butter or olive oil, for serving (optional)

Pick the leaves off the basil and parsley, and put them in a blender with the anchovy fillets, garlic, capers, pine nuts and 50ml of the olive oil, thenblend to a rough paste. Scrape into a bowl and add another 50-100ml olive oil, stirring as you go, to achieve a consistency you like. Taste and add salt, if required.

Bring a small pan of water to a boil. Lower in the eggs and boil for eight minutes if you want a soft centre, or 10 for hard-boiled. Lift out the eggs and put them in a bowl of cold water for two minutes. Gently crack the shells with the back of a spoon, return the eggs to the cold water for another minute, then peel them.

Meanwhile, put 1kg scrubbed or peeled new potatoes (halve them if they’re big) in a pan large to enough to hold a small bunch of asparagus too, then cover with water and add salt. Bring to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes, until they are tender; add the asparagus according to its size, so it is cooked at the same time as the potatoes. Drain and tip both on to a warm platter, then nestle the halved eggs and (if you want) curls of butter or some olive oil in the cracks. Serve with bread and the green sauce on the side.

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