I'm always on the look out for simple starter ideas. When I have guests it is always here that I fall down. Usually I don't bother and just make some nice nibbles and canapés, or I'll whip up some smoked mackerel or chicken liver paté and invite everyone to dig in. But occasionally, a proper starter is called for. Here is where I fall down. I usually want something that can be made in advance, or that is very simple to prepare so that I can focus on the other parts of the meal.
This little salad fitted the bill perfectly - simple but extremely tasty and just the thing to whet the appetite without being too copious. I found the basic recipe here on the Waitrose recipe site which I have only recently discovered.
I cooked the quails eggs and asparagus a little in advance and just assembled at the last minute. It was pretty and summery and I'll be making it again.
Asparagus and quails egg salad
5 sticks asparagus per person (normal size, not asparagus tips)
16 quails eggs
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large bag mixed salad leaves (rocket or baby leaves are good)
1 large bag watercress
1. Snap the asparagus stems at the end to get rid of woody part and then plunge into a pan of boiling water. Cook for around 4 minutes, until just tender. Drain and then lay stalks out on plates to cool.
2. Place quails eggs in a pan of cold water. Bring to boil, remove from heat and leave to stand for 30 seconds before removing the eggs and peeling them under cold running water.
3. Whisk together the mustard, garlic, vinegar and oil with a good pinch of salt and some black pepper. Put salad leaves and watercress in a large bowl and pour over half the dressing. Toss the leaves to coat and then divide between eight plates.
4. Toss the asparagus in the remaining dressing and pop 5 bits on top of each pile of leaves. Cut quails eggs in half and arrange four halves on each plate. Serve and enjoy!