200g baby carrots, halved if a bit larger
2 fennel bulbs, cut into eighths about 150g
300g small courgettes, halved if a bit larger
200g thin asparagus spears
200g purple sprouting broccoli spears
2 small romanesco heads, cut in half
salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g unsalted butter, clarified (see below)
4-5 medium egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
This starter – or it could be a main course for indestructible vegetarians – is a lovely thing to see, but especially to taste, because all the vegetables are cooked in their own time to a perfect tenderness. They offer the maximum natural flavour, underlined by a very delicate sauce.
1. For reasons of tenderness, and also to avoid mixing flavours, do two separate cooking sessions. Cook together the carrots, fennel and mini corn in a large saucepan of slightly salted water until slightly softened; you will have to judge this for yourself – try a piece, and see if it is al dente enough for you.
2. In another pan of lightly salted water, cook the remaining vegetables until they are to your taste, as above. Drain both pans, and keep the vegetables at room temperature.
3. To clarify the butter for the hollandaise, melt the butter over a very low heat, until you see a clear liquid separating from the casein or milk solids. The latter will fall to the bottom of the pan, and you should very carefully pour off the clear, or clarified, butter, leaving the solids behind.
4. Mix the egg yolks with the mustard and a little lemon juice in the top half of a double boiler or bain-marie (or even a bowl above, but not touching, a pan of hot water). Start to add the clarified butter gradually, as if making mayo, stirring all the time, never allowing the sauce to get too hot. It is ready when it is thick. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper, or more lemon.
5. Arrange the vegetables on a large platter, with the bowl of hollandaise in the middle.
Recipe from Vegetables by Antonio Carluccio, published by Quadrille, £25