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Soft-boiled Gull Eggs, Asparagus, Broad Beans & Pecorino Foam

‘A first course that unites some of my favourite ingredients of spring. Seagulls’ eggs – the most flavoursome eggs in the world – are a little gamey and with a slight taste of the sea. As a nation, we should sing about them. Here, they are served hot, with soft, runny yolks. As for English asparagus, there’s nothing quite like it. Do you peel the spears or don’t you? I like to remove the top layer of skin as I find this gives a cleaner taste and improved texture. I cook them swiftly in salted water, with butter and a little sugar; when the liquid has evaporated the asparagus is done and is coated in a buttery sheen. The pecorino foam is suitably light for this time of year.’ – John Williams, author of The Ritz Cookbook



6 gulls’ eggs (or hens’ eggs)

sea salt flakes and pepper


For the Pecorino foam

50ml (2fl oz) olive oil

20g (3/4oz) butter

60g (2 & 1/4oz) shallots, roughly chopped

1/2 celery stick, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

50g (1 & 3/4oz) button mushrooms, trimmed and finely sliced

6 black peppercorns

50ml (2fl oz) dry white wine

4 tbsp Nage

400ml (14f l oz) milk

4 tbsp double cream

450g(1lb) pecorino cheese, grated


For the asparagus

18 green and 24 wild asparagus spears (or just use green)

2 pinches of salt

2 pinches of caster sugar

40g (1 & 1/2oz) butter


For the morels

18 morels, cleaned and stalks trimmed


20g (3/4oz) butter

about 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

100ml (3 1/2fl oz)

Chicken Stock


For the purée & glazing

120g (4 & 1/4oz) broad beans, skinned

40g (1 & 1/2oz) butter

50g (1 3/4oz) peas

100ml (3 1/2f l oz) Chicken or Veal Stock


To finish (optional)

10 bean flowers | wild garlic flowers

50g (1 3/4oz) mixed wild herbs, such as wild chervil or wood sorrel


To make the Pecorino foam

Heat the oil in a large saut. or frying pan. Add the butter, then the shallots and sweat them over a medium-low heat until softened but not browned. Stir in the celery, garlic and mushrooms. Add the peppercorns and season with salt, then pour in the wine and leave to bubble away until reduced by half. Stir in the nage and, again, reduce by half. Add the milk and cream and bring to the boil.


Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes (or to 70˚C/158°F) before returning the pan to the heat and adding the Pecorino. Remove from the heat, leave to infuse for 30 minutes then pass through a fine-mesh sieve, stir well and set aside. Immediately before serving, use a stick blender to aerate the sauce to make it foamy.

To braise the asparagus

Break the asparagus spears at their weakest point to ensure tenderness. Peel off the outer skin of the asparagus stems and slice about 4cm (1 inches) from the base to ensure every piece is succulent. Reserve the trimmed pieces for the puree. Place the green asparagus spears in a pan of water so that they are submerged by three-quarters. Add

half the salt, sugar and butter and cook over a high heat for 3–4 minutes, or until tender. Set aside. Repeat the process with the wild asparagus, but cook these for only 1 minute.


To braise the morels

In a pan, braise the morels in the butter and measured water over a medium-low heat for 2–3 minutes. Pour in the stock. Cook for 5 minutes, turning the morels gently in the stock until they are perfectly glazed and have absorbed the stock’s flavours. Set aside.


Next, the purée

Add the beans to a large pan of boiling salted water. Cook for 3 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside. Cook the asparagus trimmings in the same way. Using a stick blender, blend the asparagus trimmings with one-quarter of the beans to form a puree. Mix in half the butter and season to your taste.

In a frying pan over a high heat, melt the remaining butter, add the reserved beans and the peas, then pour in the stock. Turn the beans and peas so that they are well coated and glazed. Set aside.


Finally, the glorious gulls’ eggs

Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and carefully lower in the eggs. Cook for 4 minutes. Shell the eggs in a bowl of icy water, then they’re ready to serve.

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To finish

Spoon the puree into the centre of each plate. Top with the eggs, add the asparagus and morels, scatter with the

 glazed beans and peas, flowers and herbs, if using, then spoon over the Pecorino foam. Serve this dish hot.


This is an extract from The Ritz Cookbook by John Williams