Asparagus is probably in my top 3 favourite vegetables. It definitely comes after aubergines though. They have to be my all time favourite (although technically, aren't they fruit..?). I usually eat my asparagus as simple as it comes, plenty of salt and pepper and a big pot of melted butter to dip each spear in (several times).
I decided to do something a bit different for my Tea Room at the Sunday Art Salon last Sunday, to showcase this wonderful British seasonal vegetable. The brie can easily be substituted if you're not fond of it. A soft cheese or goat's cheese would work well.
For the pastry:
225g plain flour
60g unsalted butter
50g vegetable shortening (eg Trex)
125ml cold water
For the filling:
4 medium new potatoes
16-18 thin asparagus spears
100g brie, sliced
300ml double cream
2 medium eggs
salt & black pepper
Start by making the pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the cold water, a little at a time, and bring together to form a ball (you may not need it all), handling the pastry lightly and as little as possible. Flatten into a patty, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Whilst the pastry is chilling (or in advance if you're super organised), boil the potatoes in their skins for approximately 20 minutes until just cooked, set aside to cool and then slice. For the asparagus, bring a pan of water to the boil, add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Drain the asparagus and plunge into ice cold water to stop the cooking process.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Roll the pastry out to about 3mm thick and line a greased 23cm fluted, loose based tart tin. Prick the surface of the pastry on the base of the tin gently all over with a fork, taking care not to push through to the tin. Chill again for 10 minutes. Line with foil or baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil / parchment and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the pastry has dried out and the base is cooked.
Reduce the temperature of the oven to 180C.
Cover the base of the pastry case with the sliced potatoes then arrange the asparagus and brie on top, ensuring that it is evenly distributed. Whisk the eggs and cream together and season with a little salt and plenty black pepper. Pour over the asparagus, potatoes and brie until it nearly reaches the top of the pastry.
Cook the tart in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes until set and the pastry cooked through. If the pastry around the edge is cooking too quickly you can cover it with foil.
Serve at room temperature or leave to cool in the tin before removing to serve cold.