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Pea and Artichoke Tart

Artichokes were a favourite vegetable of the Romans and then in the rest of Europe from the late fifteenth century onwards. It took a while to become generally accepted but once its reputation as an aphrodisiac was widespread, it became fashionable in many wealthy households. The artichoke is frost-sensitive and thrived in the sheltered walled gardens of Victorian England.
The garden pea arrived in the sixteenth century when it was boiled whole, dipped in butter and sucked from its pod. In London, there developed a tradition of peas being sold in the streets, the pea sellers moving around the streets with a large oval pot and providing peas, together with pepper, salt and vinegar, for immediate consumption. Their natural sweetness and versatility soon made them a popular ingredient in tarts.
Artichokes were sometimes combined with mashed bone marrow or lambs' brains in tarts, but peas provided a more acceptable and attractive companion. This tart is easy, delicious and looks very attractive.

ingredients

serves 6 - 8
225 g (8 oz) plain shortcrust pastry
12 fresh artichokes, cooked and peeled, or one 400 g (14 oz) can artichoke hearts
225 g (8 oz) frozen peas (preferably petit pois), thoroughly thawed
175 ml (6 fl oz) double cream
1 egg, plus 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 whole fresh nutmeg
fresh mint sprig and grated nutmeg or pared lemon zest, to garnish

method

1. Line a deep 23 cm (9 in) round tart tin or a shallow 23 cm (9 in) square tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

2. Roughly chop up the artichoke hearts and lay them on the base of the pre-baked pastry case.

3. Whizz up the peas, cream, eggs, egg yolks, tarragon, lemon juice, sugar and salt and pepper in a food processor until well mixed, then pour over the top of the artichokes. Grate the fresh nutmeg on top.

4. Bake in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or until the mixture is set but still squidgy. It will be bright green in colour but should show signs of browning around the edges.

5. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a sprinkling of grated nutmeg or pared lemon zest.

6. SERVE warm or at room temperature with salad and a wedge of lemon.


Cook's Tip - This tart will serve 10 -12 as a starter or vegetable dish.

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