This is an exciting time of year for cooks; a time when so many special fruits and vegetables come into season for just a brief and tantalising spell. As with rhubarb and wild garlic, we are making the most of English asparagus and it features on our menus on almost a daily basis.
Generally I tend not to do too much to asparagus. I simply steam it and serve with a squeeze of lemon and melted butter or a soft poached egg. Our girls go crazy for it, especially when they can eat it with their fingers. But I do also enjoy asparagus in a simple tart, like this one, with ham and Parmesan. It’s incredibly easy to make, especially if you forget about making your own shortcrust pastry and buy in ready-made instead, and it’s just as good eaten cold the following day.
Asparagus, ham and Parmesan tart
175g plain flour
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
200ml Greek yoghurt
100g Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
100g chopped ham
Preheat the oven to 190°C / gas mark 5.
To make the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt. Using your finger tips, rub in the butter until it resembles soft breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to make the mixture come together to form a firm dough. Cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour.
Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the pastry to line 9 inch well-buttered flan dish. Line the pastry with foil or baking paper and fill with baking beads or rice. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until the pastry just starts to turn golden. Remove the beads or rice and the foil, and brush the pastry with a little of the egg you’ll be using in the filling. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes so the egg seals the case. Allow to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
Lightly steam or boil the asparagus until only just cooked; it should still have a little bite. Refresh in ice cold water to stop further cooking and to retain that beautiful green colour. Drain well.
Gently beat the eggs and the extra yolks (which give it that lovely vibrant yellow colour) and combine with the yoghurt, milk and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the chopped ham and asparagus in the pastry case and pour over the cheesy egg mixture. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the filling is set and golden. Leave to cool a little and serve at room temperature with a simple salad.
As this is such a seasonal tart, I’m entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season blog event, which this month celebrates its second anniversary. You’ll discover lots of tasty recipes over there using asparagus as well as the likes of rhubarb and wild garlic.