Asparagus and Parma ham timbale

  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 45 minutes
  • Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • ‚Äč700g/1½lb Asparagus spears, prepared
  • 1 wholemeal loaf, thickly sliced
  • 200ml/6¾fl. oz Double cream
  • 2 Eggs
  • 75g/2½oz Parmesan, grated
  • 75g/2½oz Butter
  • 60g/2oz Parma ham
Asparagus and Parma ham timbale

Timbale is a french word, and means that it's food cooked within a pan. In this case, a loaf pan, and with a bit of care this dish can look really impressive, and is still unusual enough to really get the conversation started! When I serve this, I tend to cut some thin wafers of courgette, and grill them on a baking tray with a decent pinch of salt and olive oil and serve on the side  – the saltiness helps cut through the cheese flavours of the timbale.

Try to pick a good quality wholemeal bread, sliced thickly, as it's a bit more robust. If you can't find Parma ham, then any good salted ham – such as Serrano ham – would make an excellent choice.

Preparation

Cut the crusts off the bread, to leave nice neat squares.

Wash the asparagus and snap off the woody bases.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC/400ºF or Gas mark 6.
  2. Melt the butter in a small pan, and use half to grease a loaf tin (Mine was about 23cm/9in by 12cm/5in), put the rest aside as you will add it to the filling.
  3. Line the sides and bottom of the loaf tin with the slices of bread – overlapping them slightly.
  4. For the mix, beat two eggs in a jug, then add the parmesan, double cream and the remaining butter.
  5. Lay a few stalks of asparagus inside the tin pour over some of the mix, and a few roughly torn strips of Parma ham. Try to alternate the way the asparagus points so one end of the timbale isn't all the stems!
  6. Repeat the adding layers of asparagus, mix, and Parma ham until the mix and Parma ham is used up – that was about three quarters of the tin in my case.
  7. Line the top with some overlapping slices of bread, and place in the oven to cook. If the top starts to burn at any stage, cover it with tin foil.
  8. Cook in the oven for about 45 minutes, and remove it and let it rest inside the tin for a few minutes.
  9. Cut the crusted peaks of the bread away from the sides (If any) so the top is quite flat and tidy.
  10. Put a serving plate face down over the top of the loaf tin and quickly turn the plate, and the dish upside down.
  11. Remove the tin and the timbale should have slid out neatly.
  12. Let it rest a minute more, then cut it into thick slices and serve, either on its own, or alongside some grilled vegetables.
The word asparagus comes from the Greek asparagos, meaning shoot or sprout.

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