Two pretty lazy tarts…

May 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

No, not a reference to Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie amongst the guests at That Wedding, but a pair of recipes to make the most of newly arrived asparagus. Both have the advantage that you can feed some 6 people with a single prized bunch.

Both recipes are dead simple as you start with bought puff pastry. Now that the all-butter stuff is readily available, there’s really no good reason to make your own, unless of course it’s your idea of fun.

The first recipe, pairing the asparagus with slow cooked sweet shallots, unctuous melted taleggio cheese and serrano ham, comes from an old issue of House and Garden magazine circa spring 2005 I think. I carefully clipped the recipe out a few years ago after first making this tart. I then lost the cutting and was never able to remember the ingredients so I was thrilled that it turned up again when I cleared out some old boxes of papers the other week.

The second tart came from an article by Lucas Hollweg in the Times Online May 2008. I came across it when searching for my first recipe, lost then but now found. It’s different but equally good, combining asparagus with garlic, cream and goats’ cheese, the flavours pointed up with a little mint and lemon zest.

The only potential technical pitfall with either recipe is avoiding the dreaded soggy bottom (Princesses, take note…). Making sure your oven is good and hot, and using shallow metal baking sheets should help avoid this problem.

Either tart would make a lovely light spring lunch served with a green salad. And either would be perfect for the group occasion when you need to bring along a dish for a buffet supper or posh picnic – a bit festive, can be made in advance, good warm or cold, tastes fantastic, easy to cut into portions and serve – what more can you ask?

Recipe for asparagus, basil, serrano ham and taleggio tart

With thanks to House and Garden magazine.

You can use either green or white asparagus but be sure to peel white asparagus first – this isn’t necessary with the green stuff. You can substitute other oozy soft-rinded cheeses if you can’t get hold of Taleggio. I’ve made this recipe successfully with slices of Reblochon and Tomme de Brébis previously as that was I had to hand in the fridge. Slices of a well flavoured Brie or Camembert would probably be good too. You can also substitute other cured hams for the serrano, or even leave the ham out if you’re cooking for a gathering including vegetarians.

Ingredients

450g puff pastry
4 tablespoons olive oil
250g shallots or mild onions, sliced
1 tablespoon finely sliced basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g fresh asparagus
85g finely sliced serrano ham
225g Taleggio cheese
Basil leaves to garnish

Heat the oven to 220 degrees C, gas mark 7. Roll out the pastry into a thin rectangle 35cm by 25cm and slip onto a baking sheet. Take a sharp knife and lightly score the pastry about 2cm inside the pastry edge, so that create a rim for the tart. Prick the internal rectangle of the pastry with a fork and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently sauté the shallots until they are meltingly soft. Mix in the basil, season to taste and set aside. Meanwhile, trim the asparagus removing the tough ends of the stalks (peel if using white asparagus), then drop into a pan of boiling salted water; cook for about 5 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and spread out on kitchen paper to cool.

Spread the shallots over the pastry within the rim. Arrange the asparagus on top, then tear the ham into strips and scatter over the asparagus mixture. Cut the cheese into fine slices (the original recipe suggests cutting off the rind but I think this is unnecessary and wasteful). Dot over the filling.

Immediately place in the centre of the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200 degrees C, gas mark 6 and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and the cheese bubbling. Serve garnished with a few basil leaves.

Recipe for asparagus, lemon and goat’s cheese tart

With thanks to Lucas Hollweg for this recipe which appeared in The Times Online in May 2008.

Again, you can use either green or white asparagus but be sure to peel the white stuff first as otherwise it will be inedibly woody.

Ingredients

500g asparagus
250g puff pastry
2 cloves garlic
100ml double cream
zest of 1 lemon
150g soft white goat’s cheese
salt and pepper
1 egg
small handful mint leaves
olive oil

Throw the asparagus into a pan of boiling water. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 4-7 minutes until just soft. Tip into a colander and refresh under the cold tap.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C/425 F/gas mark 7. Roll the puff pastry into a rough circle about 28cm diameter. Put it onto a large baking sheet, then use the tip of a knife to score a line all the way around, about 1cm from the edge. Don’t cut all the way through; it’s just to form a rim for the tart. Prick the centre with a fork. Cook in the oven for 5 minutes until it starts to rise and brown.

Meanwhile, mix together the garlic, cream, lemon zest and half the cheese. Season, then beat in the egg. Remove the pastry from the oven and flatten the centre inside the border to make a well. Pour in the cream mixture, being careful that it doesn’t spill over the edge. Arrange the asparagus randomly over the top and scatter with the remaining goat’s cheese and the mint leaves. Add a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper.

Turn the oven down to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F/gas mark 6 and bake for 20-25 minutes more until the pastry is crisp. Drizzle over a little more oil and leave for 20 minutes to cool.

A dish fit for princess…?

STOP PRESS – Pleased to see that an asparagus and watercress tart featured on the menu at That Wedding Reception

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