A Good Asparagus Tart

The freshest English asparagus is such a treat that it seems a pity to serve it in any other than the simplest way. However, if you haven’t enough to satisfy everyone, or if the asparagus is imported or slightly less fresh, an asparagus tart is always appreciated. This one uses my hot butter method for the pastry, which gives a more biscuit-like texture, ideal for tarts. Since it is just a question of stirring the dough together you don’t have to worry that you haven’t the right touch for pastry making. The tart can be made ahead and reheated gently.

Ingredients

  • 450 g/1 lb asparagus
  • 300 ml/½ pint double cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 medium or large egg
  • finely grated rind of 1 lemon
  • ¼ whole nutmeg, grated
  • 25 g/1 oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

For the pastry crust

  • 225 g/8 oz strong plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 150 g/5 oz butter
  • 2 teaspoons water

Method

To make the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Melt the butter gently with the water in a saucepan and then add to the flour a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough. Press the warm dough evenly over the base and up the sides of a 24-25 cm/9½-10 in loose-based fluted aluminium flan tin. Prick lightly all over and then refrigerate for half an hour or more. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Cut any woody-looking stems off the asparagus. Boil or steam the asparagus until just tender — don’t overcook it. Rinse with cold water and drain well on paper towels. Then whisk the cream with the egg yolks and the whole egg until well mixed. Whisk in the lemon rind and season with the nutmeg and some sea salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Put the chilled pastry case, unfilled, in the centre of the oven for 10-15 minutes. Then remove from the oven and lower the heat to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Arrange the cooked asparagus in a fanned-out pattern in the pastry case. Slowly pour on the cream mixture and then sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Put back in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the filling is only just set to a light touch in the centre. Push the tart up out of the flan tin and on to a serving plate. Serve warm.