12 free-range eggs
temperature-controlled water bath
vacuum pack bags
commercial vacuum pack machine
For the watercress jelly, place the chopped watercress into a food processor with the water and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, then strain through a fine sieve. Measure out 175ml/6fl oz of the strained liquid. Discard any remaining liquid or use in a different recipe.
Heat a few tablespoons of the watercress liquid in a small pan. Squeeze out any excess liquid from the gelatine leaves, then stir into the pan until dissolved. Stir in the remaining watercress liquid, then pass the entire mixture through a fine sieve into a small, square container. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour, or until set. Cut the set watercress jelly into 1cm/½in cubes, then place back into the fridge until needed.
For the asparagus purée, melt the butter in a large pan over a high heat until foaming, then add the asparagus and season, to taste, with salt. Fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender, moving the asparagus around the pan to prevent burning. Transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor and blend until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and set aside until needed.
For the egg yolk 'confit', place the eggs into a water bath set at 66C/151F. Cook the eggs for one hour and 10 minutes, then remove from the water bath and chill in a bowl of ice water in the fridge. When the eggs have cooled, peel the eggs and carefully remove the egg whites. (The egg yolks will be cooked but still quite soft.)
Place all of the egg yolks into a piping bag and set aside until needed.
For the mayonnaise, cook the egg in a pan of boiling water for five minutes, then drain and chill in a bowl of ice water. When the egg is completely cooled, peel away the shell. Roughly chop the egg.
Place the chopped egg into a mixing bowl with the mustard powder, sherry vinegar, salt and water and blend until smooth with a stick blender. Slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil in a thin steady stream down one side of the bowl while continuing to blend, until all of the oil has been incorporated and the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Transfer the mayonnaise into a squeeze bottle and chill in the fridge until needed.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
For the toast, cut the bread as thin as possible into four slices, then cut each slice in half. Place the bread slices on a baking tray, drizzle with the rapeseed oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place another baking tray on top and weigh down with a heavy object, then bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until crisp.
To serve, place five asparagus spears each into four separate vacuum bags with a tablespoon of salted butter each. Cook in a large pan of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Gently warm through the asparagus purée in a small pan.
To assemble the egg and cress 'sandwich' place one slice of toast on a flat work surface and pipe alternate blobs of egg yolk and mayonnaise along the toast, about five blobs in total. Place one cube of watercress jelly on top of each blob. Place a second slice of toast diagonally across the top, then repeat the process with a second layer of egg yolk confit and mayonnaise, making sure there are equal numbers of both the mayonnaise and egg yolk blobs in the 'sandwich'. Top each blob again with a cube of watercress jelly. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until you have four 'sandwiches'.
Take four warmed serving plates and spread a spoonful of the asparagus purée in the middle of each plate. Arrange five cooked asparagus spears over the top of each plate, then place the 'sandwich' on top. Garnish the plate with a few pieces of ham and the baby watercress, then serve.
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