I grew up in the Loire Valley, a few miles from Tours. Each year, at the end of May, my mum would drive to Bourgeuil, a little town famous for its wines but also for its asparagus. Unlike green asparagus that we often see today, they were glorious shades of white and purple. There was always great anticipation for the asparagus season and everyone in the area looked forward to my Mum's journey. My brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles, grandmothers, neighbours and close friends would all go with my mum to get the first asparagus of the year. It had to be the first crop as it was the best, we would never settle for anything less. My mum would bring home at least 12 kilos, sometimes up to 20 kilos of asparagus when it had been an abundant crop. It would then be my Dad's role to peel them and sterilise them into le parfait jars. He did this to preserve the asparagus so that we could enjoy them all year round.

A couple of years ago, my friend, James McKie phoned me and explained that he planned to grow these little green sticks called albaragus and I thought he was out of his mind. A vegetable very similar to asparagus, growing it sounded like extremely hard work. He sent me a nice bundle of his first albaragus to try and when they arrived, they were very irregular in shape, dirty and uneven. They were slightly purple and dark green in colour and unlike anything I had seen before. I quickly realised that this was a special ingredient and that is was a vegetable that deserved to be cooked and consumed very quickly after it's been cut, so to enjoy it at its best. They are extremely tasty with a deep nutty flavour; they are crunchy and keep their texture, even after they've been cooked. Albaragus is a prime example of Scottish produce at its finest – it's worth the time and effort for a product that's so delicious.

Albaragus, like asparagus cooks very quickly. I'd recommend peeling only the largest ones, there isn't any need to peel the smaller stalks. Add them to a pot of salted boiling water for a few minutes and serve straight away whilst they're still warm. They are such a beautiful ingredient; you can just serve them very simply or opt for something more elaborate. They go perfectly with salted butter or with a dollop of seasoned crème fraîche. The recipe possibilities are endless; add them to your favourite fishcake mix, try them in a salad with lemon dressing or red wine vinaigrette or fry them in olive oil for a few minutes and use them in your sandwich with smoked salmon or salted beef. They will accompany any fish, but I'd say they work best with white fish. Experiment and discover which dishes you enjoy. That's what cooking is all about. Have fun and enjoy this extremely flavoursome Scottish seasonal ingredient.

Bon appétit.


Serves 4


For the Snails

24 snails

1tsp butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic of clove, crushed

For the albaragus

2 bunches of albaragus

Olive oil

2 tsp butter

200ml beef stock

Salt and pepper, to season

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of thyme

Salt and pepper, to season

Fresh chervil or parsley, to garnish


1. Sauté the snails in a small pan with one teaspoon of butter and the finely diced shallots for a few minutes. Add the crushed garlic and gently heat through. Season, taste and season again if necessary.

2. In a separate frying pan, fry the albaragus in a little olive oil and one teaspoon of butter for four minutes. Season to taste.

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, reduce the beef stock with the bay leaves and thyme and add one teaspoon of butter.

4. To serve, dress the albaragus on a plate and then add the snails on top. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig from the stock. Pour over the beef stock and dress with fresh chervil or parsley. Enjoy with a glass of red wine.

Oeuf cocotte of Barra snails and cockles with albaragus

Serves 4


24 snails

3 tsp butter

Olive Oil

1 shallot, finely diced

1 kg of fresh cockles

2 bunches of albaragus

1 glass of whipping cream

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs of thyme

4 tbsp crème fraiche

4 eggs

To Serve

Toasted bread


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Sauté the snails in a small pan with 1tsp of butter and the finely diced shallots for a few minutes.

3. In a separate dry pan, cook the fresh cockles with the bay leaves and thyme. Keep stirring until the cockles have opened up. Remove the shell from the cockles and add the meat into the pan with the snails.

4. Keep the juice from the cockles and add the whipping cream. Gently heat the cream through and reduce until you have a coating consistency, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

5. Cook your albaragus (see introduction for cooking instructions). Roughly chop the cooked albaragus and add to the snail and cockle pan. Keep everything warm.

6. Grease four ramekins with butter and split the snail, cockle and albaragus mixture between the dishes. Pour a generous helping of the reduced cream sauce over the top.

7. Crack one egg into each ramekin and add one tablespoon of crème fraîche on top of each egg. Cook them in the oven for eight minutes. The eggs should come out of the oven with a soft yolk. Serve with toasted bread or soldiers and enjoy.