You know it’s Spring when asparagus starts making its way onto supermarket shelves. And I can never walk past those slender, green spears without picking up a bunch or three.
I think I’m attracted to them because they seem just a little bit exotic. Growing up, asparagus was most definitely not on the menu. The only time I got to eat asparagus was on special occasions – heard of asparagus rolls? A morning tea staple in the good old days, they consisted of a single asparagus spear (canned, of course!) wrapped in a well buttered crustless square of white bread. You simply didn’t eat asparagus any other way!
Anyway, I digress… I took a fancy to the idea of making an asparagus tart with home-made short-crust pastry and a lovely creamy egg custard. I dithered about which cheese to use – initially I tried the tart with some mild, nutty Edam cheese. It was delicious, but just a little bland. So, I threw caution to the wind and made it again with some (rather expensive) authentic French Chevre (goat’s cheese). The cheese was a first for me and I was rather taken by its pure white colour, tangy taste and dense crumbly texture. It’s kind of like feta on steroids.
As it turns out, the goat’s cheese was the perfect counterpart to the mellow tasting asparagus. Combined with a delicious buttery short-crust (I made mine with spelt flour), this Asparagus & Goat’s Cheese Tart ticked all the boxes for me. Thanks to Ren Behan for the filling recipe and Felicity Cloake for the pastry recipe, both of which I adapted.
PS: You might think from my photos that there’s some asparagus missing from one half of the tart – not so! The baking sheet under the tart warped in the heat of the oven and so the tart was sitting at an incline with the egg custard happily flowing down to one end. LOL…
I can totally recommend this recipe to those of you who want a tasty classic dish that’s simple to make and impressive to serve. Enjoy!
- 225g (7.9 oz) plain flour, plus extra to dust (I used spelt flour)
- 120g (4.2 oz) cold butter, cut into large dice
- Pinch of salt
- 1 medium egg yolk
- Up to a tablespoon of ice cold water, or as needed
- 300g (10.5 oz) fresh asparagus
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed
- 2 tbsp grated lemon zest
- Olive oil
- 4 free-range eggs
- 100ml (3.3 fl oz) double (heavy) cream
- About 200g (7 oz) crumbled goat's cheese (chevre), or other cheese if preferred
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- To make the pastry, add the flour into a food processor along with the butter and salt and pulse a few seconds until it resembles coarse meal. Add the egg yolk and process for a few seconds until it begins to clump (if it doesn't do this, add in a few drops of cold water until it starts coming together (to test if it's ready, pinch some of the mixture between your fingers - it should hold). Dump the crumbly mixture onto the kitchen counter and bring together with your hands (don't knead it as you don't want to overwork it). Form into a thick disc, wrap and chill for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
- Wash the asparagus then snap off the woody ends and discard. Place asparagus in a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and rub the garlic cloves and lemon zest over top so the spears are well coated.
- Lightly grease a rectangular tart tin with a little oil.
- Take the pastry out of the fridge. Roll out on a lightly floured board and line the rectangular tart tin with it (to avoid shrinkage, I leave an overlap of pastry and only trim the edges once it's been blind-baked). Prick the base in several places with a fork, then line with baking or parchment paper and fill with baking beans or dried lentils.
- Put both the prepared asparagus and the tart shell in the oven alongside each other and bake for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk in the cream. Put aside.
- Take the asparagus out of the oven and keep it to one side. Then take the tart shell out of the oven and carefully tip out the baking beans or lentils and lift out the paper. Put the tart shell back into the oven for another 10 minutes.
- Take the tart shell out of the oven again and place the roasted asparagus into the tart. Pour the egg/cream mixture over top, then add the grated or crumbled cheese over top. Season with a little sea salt and pepper.
- Bake the filled tart for a further 15 minutes, until it is bubbling and golden. Leave to cool slightly and serve in slices. Alternatively, you can eat it at room temperature.
You can substitute grated cheddar cheese or any other preferred cheese instead of the goat's cheese if you prefer
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting