Serves 4 as a starter or side dish, or 2 as a light lunch or supper
About 20 asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off – if the spears are quite thin, you may want to use more
25g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
25g plain flour
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
100g 8-10 month Comté, grated
Make the most of the short but oh-so-sweet British asparagus season with this mouth-watering recipe that makes a lovely starter or side dish – it’s also wonderful as a meal with crusty bread to mop up all the sauce. The asparagus is lightly steamed so it keeps some bite and is then covered in a white sauce bursting with the flavours of Comté, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
Preheat oven to 200°C normal / 180℃ fan and rub the inside of a shallow ovenproof dish with unsalted butter.
Bring a large pan of salted water to boil and blanch the asparagus for one minute, then drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Once the asparagus are cold, drain and place in the ovenproof dish.
In a small pan on a medium heat, melt the butter, then stir in the flour. Cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes until lightly golden. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce. Return to the heat, stir and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of custard.
Remove from the heat and beat in the egg yolk, mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour most of the sauce over the asparagus.
Top with the Comté and place the dish in the oven for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, turn the grill on high (if the grill is separate to the oven – if using a combined oven/grill, heat up the grill after removing the dish from the oven). After 8 minutes, transfer the dish from the oven to the grill to cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Serve immediately with crusty bread.