I make this luxurious tart regularly when asparagus is in season. It's perfect for a lunch or to take on a picnic. Use sprue or the cheaper spears that many growers sell for soups and cooking. For the best results it's well worth searching out a good strong-flavoured goat's cheese such as the Wealdway Mature from Nut Knowle Farm in East Sussex (www.nutknowlefarm.com for stockists) that I've used here. It will make all the difference to the final flavour. Serve warm or cold.
Serves: 4-6. Prepare: 20 mins. Cook: 50-55 mins
For the pastry:
- 175g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 75g butter, diced
For the filling:
- 250g bunch asparagus, trimmed
- 6 spring onions, sliced
- 100g local goat's cheese
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan
- 150ml double cream
- 150ml milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 egg
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 200C gas mark 6.
- Sift flour with salt into a mixing bowl and rub in butter using fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over 2-3 tbsp cold water and mix to a firm dough with the blade of a knife.
- Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly. Wrap in cling wrap and chill for 15 mins.
- Roll out the pastry on a floured work surface and use to line a 23cm (9in) loose-bottomed flan tin.
- Chill again for 10 minutes then line with crumpled paper, fill with dried beans and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for a further 5 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 180C gas mark 4.
- Cook the asparagus in simmering water for 5-6 minutes until just tender. Drain well and run under cold water to stop it cooking any further. Drain again and pat dry with kitchen paper.
- Heat some butter in a small pan, add the spring onions and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft.
- Scatter the onion over the base of the tart and scatter with the crumbled goat's cheese. Arrange the asparagus on top and sprinkle with the Parmesan.
- Whisk together the cream, milk, egg yolks and egg. Season well and pour over the asparagus. Bake the tart for 35-40 mins until golden and set.
Aga cooks: You don't need to bake the pastry blind in the Aga. Simply cook the tart on the floor of the roasting oven for 45-50 minutes, sliding in the cold shelf on the third set of runners after 20 minutes so that the tart doesn't overbrown.
Cook's tip: Use ready-made shortcrust pastry made with butter if you don't want to make your own. You will need 250g.
- recipes Mary Gwynn
- pictures David Merewether