Asparagus season is a very special time of year. As it’s so fleeting, it’s nice to make the most of it by cooking things that show off this beautiful vegetable.
Later in season you find thicker asparagus; these will work too. Slice in half lengthways to preserve the delicacy of the tart and to ensure the asparagus cooks in time.
If you’re not used to making your own pastry, I urge you to give this recipe a try. It’s a matter of mixing in fat with flour, then lazily stirring in some cold eggy-water. Nothing to be afraid of. However, there’s no shame in a shop-bought pastry case, and if that’s the thing standing in the way of you making this tart then the shortcut is completely justified.
For the pastry:
3 cups flour
1 tsp fine salt
1 cup cold shortening, cut into small pieces
For the filling:
125g herby goat’s cheese, softened
1/4 cup milk
6 – 8 eggs (depending on how deep your baking dish is)
1/3 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 bunch of asparagus, ends clicked off
To make the pastry, ¾ fill a mug with water and ice. Set aside. In a large bowl, add the flour and salt and stir to combine. Cut the cold shortening into little pieces and add to the flour. Use a pastry cutter to mix the flour and shortening together so it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Remove the ice from the water and beat one egg into the cold water. Add about half the egg and water mixture to the flour bowl and use a fork to stir. Keep adding water – a little at a time – until the pastry just starts to come together. You may not need all the water and egg. Try not to overwork the pastry, but don’t panic about it. Just stir lazily. Split the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Press gently to form a rectangular shape, for ease of rolling later on. Refrigerate the pastry for 20 minutes, or longer.
You’ll only need half this recipe for the tart. You can either refrigerate the other half for up to 4 days or freeze.
Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C / 175C Fan.
Line a 9″ x 12″ baking dish with parchment, folding into the corners and pressing so the edges come right to the side.
Roll out the pastry into a rectangle slightly larger than the baking dish. If you need to cut and press bits of pastry in that’s completely fine. Transfer the pastry to the baking dish (I roll it gently around a floured rolling pin) and gently press in the edges and corners. Trim any really rough edges so you have a roughly even edge the whole way around.
(As you can see in the photos above, I go for a bit of a rustic vibe. It is homemade, after all.)
Prick the base and sides all over with a fork, then lay a sheet of parchment on top. Pour over baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes, or until no longer shiny and beginning to crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
When you’re ready to bake the tart, preheat the oven to 325F / 165C / 150C Fan.
Trim the asparagus so the stems will fit across the baking dish. Save any offcuts (but not the tough ends you clicked off) and chop into small pieces. Sprinkle the base of the prepared pastry case with the chopped onion and chopped asparagus offcuts. Place the asparagus down in the baking dish, alternating directions so each section of the tart has some asparagus tips and some ends.
To make the filling, start by adding the goat’s cheese and milk to a bowl. Use a whisk to beat together until smooth.
Tip: This is much easier to accomplish when the goat’s cheese is at room temperature.
Add the eggs, grated parmesan and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk together. Gently pour over the asparagus, careful not to disrupt the lovely pattern you created. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, or until set with just a slight wobble in the middle. Let cool for half an hour or so, then carefully but confidently lift up the parchment and transfer the tart to a board for slicing.
Tip: If you can avoid it, don’t refrigerate. The texture will be fabulous. (But obviously if you’re keeping this for more than a day you’ll need to fridge it. It’s not the end of the world.)