An inspired and moreish dish from Thomasina Miers. For a vegetarian version leave out the anchovies and use a vegetarian cheese.
- 200 g bunch asparagus
- 30 g unsalted butter
- 5 medium free range eggs beaten
- 500 ml whole milk
- 3 anchovy fillets in oil drained and chopped (optional)
- ½ garlic clove peeled and grated
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 50 g grated Parmesan plus an extra sprinkling for the top of the pudding
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme leaves picked
- 100 g day-old sourdough bread torn into large chunks
- melted butter to serve (optional)
- Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Break off and discard the woody ends of the asparagus, then cut the spears into walnut-length pieces.
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan and fry the asparagus until the butter has browned and the asparagus has coloured a little.
- To make the filling, whisk the eggs with the milk, anchovies, garlic, nutmeg, parmesan and thyme, and season generously.
- Butter a deep, two-litre ovenproof dish (eg, an enamel bowl, ceramic soufflé dish or non-loose-bottomed cake tin) and add the bread chunks and asparagus.
- Pour in the custard mix and sprinkle with extra parmesan. Leave to soak for 10 minutes, then bake for 50 minutes, until the custard is deep golden, firm and risen.
- Remove and leave to cool slightly (don’t worry that it sinks back a bit) then serve scoops on to warmed plates with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a crisp green salad. For an extra lick of silkiness, drizzle over a trickle of melted butter.
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