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out of the frying pan: asparagus, potato and cheese tart

It’s not always a practical option, but I’ve always loved the idea of eating and cooking with the seasons. It’s difficult nowadays to tell when fruit and vegetables are actually in season when they’re being shipped from the other side of the world and presented to us in supermarkets, all glossy and flawless as if they were grown on our front steps.

Of course we could all buy our food from local farmers’ markets, but the closest market to me only runs every Saturday morning and it’s a far more desirable fantasy than the reality of having to plan your weekly shop and drag yourself out of bed to trawl through stall upon stall. In winter it’s almost unbearable.

So I’ve been going out of my way to inform myself on what fruit and veg is in season and when, and at the moment it’s asparagus season! Remarkable in how fleeting it is, asparagus season generally lasts for around two months.

I’ve come up with a simple tart utilising delicious asparagus that I think suits the Spring perfectly. Great for picnics and barbeques; lovely for days when the weather’s just too warm to bother cooking something hot, and a nice addition to what may otherwise be an insubstantial salad.

Ingredients

This is the kind of base recipe where filo pastry can be replaced with a homemade shortcrust pastry for something slightly fancier, but the quality and simplicity of frozen filo pastry is just too hard to pass up.

4 medium sized waxy potatoes, peeled
1 bunch of asparagus spears, woody ends removed
200g filo pastry
100g freshly grated Gruyere cheese
4 free range eggs
125ml milk or cream (one’s obviously healthier than the other, though both are suitable)
salt to season
freshly ground pepper to season
100g butter, melted

Method

1. Place potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Blanch asparagus for 3 minutes in a pan of boiling water. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop cooking process.

2. Preheat your oven to 190°C. Brush an ovenproof dish with melted butter (I used a shallow circular pie dish, but any shape will do) and layer the sheets of filo pastry so that the bottom and sides of the dish are seamlessly covered, brushing them with melted butter between each layer for about five layers.

3. Once boiled potatoes are cooled, cut into thin slices. Arrange in one layer in the bottom of your pastry lined dish, then sprinkle with a third of the grated Gruyere. Add another two layers of potatoes and cheese.

4. Whisk eggs together with milk/cream, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange blanched asparagus spears on top of potatoes and cheese and pour egg mixture over the top. Brush edges of the filo pastry with remaining melted butter.

5. Place in oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden and set, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. If it looks like the pastry may burn before the egg is cooked, cover with foil.

6. Perfect served with salad or as a nice alternative to a packed sandwich lunch.

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