Spring is one of the most exciting times of the year on the allotment, as we watch the sparse winter beds come to life with early crops such as broad beans and asparagus. We also like to harvest tender pea shoots, shredding a couple of handfuls and adding them to this soup with the broad beans. Later in the summer, the best vegetables to use are thinly sliced artichoke hearts and peas, or indeed any late broad beans. The combination of jamón, broad beans and mint is so classically Spanish, with strong echoes of sopa de ajo – Castilla-La Mancha’s most famous garlic broth. Serves 4.
- 170g jamón serrano, finely shredded with a sharp knife
- 1.4l good light chicken stock
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 3 tbsp fino sherry
- 150g podded young broad beans
- 1 bunch of green asparagus spears
- 4 organic eggs
- 4 slices of rustic bread (sourdough or ciabatta)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled, and some good extra virgin olive oil for the toast
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
- a sprinkling of sweet paprika, smoked or unsmoked
Gently simmer 150g of the jamón in the stock with the thyme for 15 minutes or until you can taste its sweet saltiness, skimming occasionally. Remove the jamón with a slotted spoon and discard, then add the fino sherry and season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be done a little in advance, if you like.
Meanwhile, fill a medium saucepan with unsalted water and place over a high heat. When it is boiling, add the broad beans and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Drain in a colander and refresh under cold water. Peel any beans larger than your thumbnail, as these will have a tough outer skin.
To prepare the asparagus, snap the woody stems off at the base, halve them lengthways if they are thick, and slice in 1cm lengths.
About 5 minutes before you are ready to serve, place the broth over the heat. When it is gently simmering, add the asparagus and cook for a minute before poaching the eggs in the broth. To do this, break each egg into a bowl and slide it into the soup. While they are poaching, toast the bread, then rub with the clove of garlic and drizzle liberally with the oil.
When the egg whites are almost set, add the drained broad beans to the broth to heat through, plus the remaining shredded jamón and the mint. Taste once more for seasoning. Serve immediately, with the toasted bread and a sprinkling of paprika.