Locally grown asparagus always catches my eye on the greengrocer’s shelf and is a sure sign that spring has truly arrived. At the beginning of the season brush the tender spears with oil before roasting quickly for a few minutes in the AGA. Serve with salad leaves and air-dried ham for a delicious first course or replace toasted soldiers and dip into a boiled egg.
Later in the season when the asparagus stalks are more robust you can puree to make a soup reserving the tips to add at the last moment. Or take some time during the bank holiday to make this tart which is ideal packed for a picnic. Try to seek out the traditional cloth bound cheddar that I suggest. Its delicate aroma marries perfectly with the flavoursome spears or alternatively use a medium strength hard cheese.
You will need:
200g (8oz) Rich shortcrust pastry
3 large egg yolks (freeze the whites for making meringues another time)
300ml (10floz) crème fraiche
12 asparagus spears – washed and trimmed*
1 bunch of spring onions – washed and very finely chopped
25g (1oz) butter
100g (4oz) grated Quicke’s Elderflower Cloth Bound Cheddar
8 “/24cm round tart tin or we used a rectangular tin with a loose base
Roll out the pastry and use to line an 24cm round or rectangular greased tart tin.
Allow to rest in the fridge.
If cooking your tart in a conventional oven bake the pastry case blind by lining with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Pre heat the oven to 200 C or Gas Mark 7.
Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven, discard baking beans and parchment. Brush the base of the pastry case with a little beaten egg and continue cooking for another five minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 C or Gas Mark 6.
Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and crème fraiche together with the cheese and season with black pepper.
Allow the pastry case to cool and then fill with the finely sliced spring onions, the asparagus spears and egg mixture. Cook for another 25-30 minutes until golden brown and set.
Alternatively if you are baking your tart in an AGA, line the tart tin with pastry then freeze for at least 20 minutes. When you are ready to cook the tart and if the tin has a loose bottom, place a baking sheet on the floor of your roasting oven to preheat.
Prepare the filling and remove the lined tin from the freezer. Fill the pastry case as normal then cook the tart on the preheated baking tray on the floor of the AGA for approximately 30 minutes. There is no need to bake the pastry case blind.
Serve warm or at room temperature with a watercress salad.
If the asparagus spears are quite thick we suggest that you blanch first. Simply immerse in boiling water for a minute then drop into chilled water and dry.
Substitute the spring onions for chives freshly snipped from the garden.