Nigel Slater’s recipes for tenderstem with garlic hollandaise, and blueberry yoghurt cake

The tender young shoots are here, long-stemmed broccoli, purple sprouting and early asparagus all waiting in line in for a spoonful of hollandaise sauce.

I ring the changes by stirring in a few fresh garlic or tarragon leaves, or the finely grated zest of an orange, then add a textural contrast with toasted almonds or fried breadcrumbs – sometimes both.

Sometimes I keep things even simpler, serving my greens with just a trickle of warm, almost-melted butter and a squeeze of lemon juice. As spring slips into summer, I feel less precious and include those green shoots in salads with snippets of air-dried ham and pieces of smoked trout, or perhaps some spoonfuls of ricotta with black pepper and olive oil.

I have enjoyed the plumes of cavolo nero and puckered green leaves of savoy cabbage all winter, but have been longing for the vivid green of spring in my shopping bag. I bought a fistful of spring greens back from the shops this week as if they were a bunch of flowers. Soft, tender cabbage leaves, lithe and loose, they were washed and then cut into wide ribbons like pasta. Cooked in a shallow pan, still wet from the tap, the leaves were sweet and tender and ready in 2 minutes. Their freshness and youth deserved respect – not the tinkering of a creative cook – so they were tossed in nothing more than peppery olive oil, chopped parsley and mint.

While waiting for the first soft fruits to appear (I am longing for a strawberry tart or homemade gooseberry pie), I put together a simple cake speckled with blueberries. The berries burst in the oven and marbled the cake with deep purple. We ate it as pudding, in thick slices with yoghurt and more berries.

Tenderstem broccoli with garlic hollandaise

I used garlic leaves here, but you could use tender young spinach leaves instead, or to continue the garlic theme, peel and finely crush 3 young, juicy cloves and stir them into the yolks before adding the butter. Serves 2. Ready in 30 minutes.

tenderstem 500g, or other fine-stemmed broccoli

For the crumbs:
white bread 75g, open textured
butter 40g
orange zest 2 tsp, finely grated

For the sauce:
wild garlic leaves 50g (or 3 young garlic cloves if unavailable)
butter 200g
egg yolks 3
dijon mustard 2 heaped tsp
white wine vinegar 1 tbsp

To make the crumbs, reduce the bread to coarse crumbs using a grater or a food processor. Melt the butter in a shallow-sided pan over a moderate heat and tip in the breadcrumbs. Season with the grated orange zest, salt and black pepper, then set aside.

To make the sauce: cut the butter into small pieces. Roughly chop the garlic leaves. (If you are using garlic cloves, peel and lightly crush them.) Put egg yolks in a heatproof bowl that exactly fits the top of a medium-sized saucepan. Put enough water in the pan to come almost to the base of the bowl. (The water must not touch.) Bring the water to the boil.

Place the egg yolks in their bowl over the water, lower the heat to a simmer, then whisk in the mustard and half the vinegar, then add a little salt and 3 or 4 pieces of butter and let it melt, whisking it almost constantly. (If using garlic cloves rather than leaves, add them now.) Continue, adding the butter piece by piece, whisking thoroughly as you go until you have a thick, canary yellow sauce. Stir in the chopped garlic leaves and check the seasoning, adding a little more vinegar if you like.

Meanwhile, bring a deep pan of water to the boil and salt it lightly, trim the broccoli, removing any woody stalks then plunge the greens into the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes, then check for tenderness with the point of a knife. Drain the broccoli, taking care not to damage the florets, and place on a serving plate.

Spoon the garlic hollandaise over the broccoli then scatter the crumbs on top.

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Blueberry yoghurt cake

‘Sweetly sliced with ginger’: blueberry yoghurt cake. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

A straightforward cake, sweetly sliced with ginger and mixed spice that will happily take all sorts of additions. Blueberries fit the bill right now. A bowl of thick, natural yoghurt and, perhaps, more berries, are a good accompaniment. Serves 12 or more. Ready in 1 hour.

self-raising flour 250g
light brown sugar 80g
caster sugar 90g
mixed spice 1 tsp
ground ginger 1 tsp
eggs 3, large
vanilla extract 1 tsp
yoghurt 100ml
vegetable oil 100ml
blueberries 250g
rolled oats 30g
demerara sugar 3 tbsp

To serve: natural yoghurt and blueberries

You will need a 20 x 20cm cake tin, lined with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Put the flour, sugars, mixed spice and ginger in a bowl. Break the eggs into a small bowl, add the vanilla extract and mix them thoroughly with a fork or small whisk. Stir in the yoghurt and vegetable oil, then mix in the dry ingredients and add half of the blueberries.

Pour into the lined cake tin; scatter over the remaining blueberries, oats and demerara sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes until lightly risen. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before lifting on to a cooling rack, still in its paper, and leave to fully cool. Cut the cake into 12 slices and serve with the natural yoghurt and more berries.

Follow Nigel on Instagram @NigelSlater


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