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Asparagus and Butter Cream Tart

Based on a traditional recipe, probably dating from the eighteenth century, it is a tart which helps you to stretch a small quantity of asparagus and enables you to make full use of the thinner spears which are otherwise difficult to handle.

ingredients

serves 4 - 6
175 g (6 oz) plain shortcrust pastry
675 g (1 1/2 lb) fresh thin green asparagus tips
55 g (2 oz) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grated onion
150 ml (1/4 pint) double cream
2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons French mustard

method

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

2. As these are thin asparagus shoots it is important that they should not be made too soggy. Steaming is the best answer. Trim the tips to lengths of no more than 12cm (4 1/2 in), but keep the trimmings. Put the asparagus tips and the trimmings in a colander over a pan of boiling water and steam for 5-6 minutes until they are just cooked. Drain very thoroughly. Place the tips in the pre-baked pastry case like spokes in a wheel.

3. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the onion in the butter for just a few minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

4. In a bowl, beat together the cream, eggs and egg yolk. Season with salt and pepper, then add the cooked onion, cooked asparagus trimmings, dill, chives and mustard and mix well. Spoon the mixture over the cooked asparagus tips.

5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the filling looks set.

6. Serve warm or cold with a green leaf salad.


Cook's Tip - This tart also makes a very good first course, especially accompanied by chopped walnuts mixed in oil, soy sauce and cider vinegar. It will serve 8 -10 as a starter.

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