Make this lovely, warm salad in late spring with the new season's asparagus. The lightly steamed, bright green spears are topped with poached quail's eggs, then finished with Parmesan shavings and a salad of lamb's lettuce and crunchy chicory. Accompany with slices of crisp baguette for an easy lunch.
Parmesan cheese is not truly vegetarian, as it contains animal rennet. To make this dish 100% vegetarian, omit the cheese or find a suitable vegetarian substitute made without animal rennet. In supermarkets look for the 'parmesan style hard cheeses' which are suitable for vegetarians.
Though much smaller in size, quail's eggs have a very similar nutritional composition to hen's eggs. They therefore contain useful amounts of protein, plus vitamins A, E, B2, B12 and niacin. * Asparagus is a good source of many of the B vitamins, including folate which is important during the early stages of pregnancy, to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. * Parmesan cheese has a higher content of vitamin B12 than other cheeses. This vitamin is important for the formation of red blood cells and for helping to keep the nervous system healthy.
Use rocket instead of chicory. * For quail's eggs with new potatoes and spinach, cook 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) scrubbed new potatoes in boiling water for about 15 minutes or until tender; drain and cut in half. While the potatoes are cooking, grill 4 rashers of lean back bacon until crisp, then drain on kitchen paper and crumble. Toss the warm potatoes and bacon with 300 g (10½ oz) baby spinach leaves and 1 small red onion, finely chopped. Keep warm. Poach 12 quail's eggs as in the main recipe. Set the eggs on top of the spinach and potato salad, season with a grinding of pepper and serve immediately.
folate * A, B1, C, E, calcium, zinc * B2, B6, niacin, copper, iron, potassium