A perfect spring starter
18 quail’s eggs
12 medium-small leeks, about 1.2kg, trimmed
1 tbsp Gray Poupon smooth Dijon mustard
¾ tsp caster sugar
1 shallot (or ½ banana shallot), very finely chopped
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp organic cold-pressed sunflower oil
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A handful of tarragon leaves, snipped
150g mixed small salad leaves
Bring a small pan of water to the boil. Add the eggs and boil for 2½ mins, then remove and cool the eggs under cold running water. Once tepid, peel under cool running water, pat dry and place in a bowl lined with kitchen paper. Cover and chill until needed.
Trim the leeks by cutting away their roots and dark green section of their green leaves. Remove their tough outer layers and cut a cross in the pale green section of their leaves, resulting in shape like a mop. Wash thoroughly in a sink filled with cold water.
Drop the leeks into a large pan of unsalted boiling water. As soon as it returns to the boil, cook briskly for 5 mins or until the leeks are just tender. Drain into a colander, cool briefly under the cold tap and then spread out on to a plate to cool and dry. Once tepid, pat dry on kitchen paper. Cover until needed.
Make the dressing by mixing together the mustard, sugar, salt, pepper and shallot in a bowl. Whisk in the vinegar and two oils, adjust the seasoning to taste and set aside until needed. This can be stored in a jam-jar if wished.
When you are ready to serve, rip the leeks into long strips that can be curled into the salad. Mix them into the vinaigrette, followed by the tarragon and salad leaves. Divide between six starter plates, arranging each salad in an airy pile. Halve the eggs and tuck six egg halves into each salad. Serve immediately.