Asparagus Tarts with a Pesto Surprise aka Asparagoose Tarts
It’s been a rather chilly spring here in the UK and picnics have not been high on our list of fun things to do. However, the sun is now giving off some much needed warmth and suddenly we want to get outside and picnics are very much on the agenda. These seasonal asparagus tarts are ideal picnic fare as they are portable and easy to pick up and eat with your hands. Why asparagoose tarts? Read on.
I was brought up with wholemeal pastry and I love the flavour and texture of it, but I used to find it really difficult to work with so rarely made it. Then I discovered the miracle of yoghurt. If you use yoghurt as the binding agent instead of water, it makes for a pliable dough that is easy to work with and has the added benefit of producing an even more delicoius pastry. I use stoneground wholemeal flour from our local National Trust mill at Cotehele and stock up on it whenever we visit. Traditional stone grinding keeps the grain from overheating and thus retains more of the nutrients. Most supermarkets stock stoneground flour these days, so it’s relatively easy to get hold of.
Goose eggs are in season right now and I always try and get some if I can. Geese are generally only in lay for a few short weeks in the spring. The eggs have a large bright yellow yolk and a creamy flavour that makes them the most delicious of all the eggs I’ve tried. They also work very nicely in baking as you can see from my lavender chocolate goose egg cake and Willies cloud forest chocolate cake. These asparagoose tarts are my homage to much maligned yet useful birds. Having kept geese in the past, CT tells me that their bite is equal to their bark, or should I say honk?
When those green spears thrust through the soil, spirits lift. Spring has arrived at last and the excitement of the asparagus season is palpable. I was hoping to get my hands on some Cornish asparagus, but the season is running a little late this year and our local greengrocers were still waiting for it to arrive. Luckily, they had English asparagus, so I was happy to use that instead.
I wanted the asparagus tarts to have a surprise layer of pesto at the bottom, that wouldn’t be noticed until they were bitten into. As it happened, some of the green bits floated to the top, giving an attractive speckled look. Luckily, the pesto layer remained more or less intact. I used wild garlic pesto as I can’t seem to get enough of this at the moment, it’s another spring thing. but any pesto would work well. You don’t of course need goose eggs for this recipe, although its worth trying them at least once if you can find them. Three large hens eggs or four smaller ones will work almost as well. The quantity of pastry I used is enough for ten 10cm tarts with enough left over to make a few jam tarts. I made eight small ones and filled them with with my blackcurrant chill jam.
It was beautifully sunny on Saturday. We planned to spend the day doing some much needed work down at the plot. But as it was a holiday weekend, we felt a picnic was in order. CT managed to cut the grass last weekend, so we had a nice green sward to sit on. These asparagus tarts were the star of the show. They were bright, cheerful and very tasty with the wild garlic pesto complimenting the creamy egg and the distinctive asparagus flavour very much in evidence. Some tomatoes, a bit of salad, a bottle each of apple juice with a couple of jam tarts to finish things off made for a perfect spring picnic.
The asparagus season should be at its zenith during National Vegetarian Week, so that would be a perfect opportunity to make these asparagus tarts; gather the family, load up the hamper and head for the hills – or beach.
National Vegetarian Week runs from the 16th to the 22nd of May this year. It’s a time to celebrate all things veggie, but particularly the stories and traditions behind the food we eat. There are lots of ways to get involved, including organising a picnic for friends, family or your local community. Do take a look at the National Vegetarian Week website for lots of ideas, recipes and posters and use the hashtag #nvw16 in any related social media posts. For even more vegetarian recipe ideas and information, head to the Vegetarian Society and Cranks websites.
- 225g (8oz) wholemeal flour
- 115g (4oz) unsalted butter
- pinch of sea or rock salt
- 3-4 tbsp natural yoghurt
- 5 tsp pesto (I used wild garlic pesto)
- 10 asparagus spears
- 1 goose egg (or 3 large hens eggs)
- 50ml milk
- salt & pepper to season
- In a large bowl rub the butter into the flour and salt with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the yoghurt with a flat bladed knife until the mixture starts to form into clumps. Start with 3 tbsp, then use more if needed.
- Cover and leave to rest in a cool place for ½ an hour or so.
- Roll the pastry out on a floured surface as thinly as possible and cut out circles big enough to fit the tart cases. Reroll the trimmings until all of the pastry is used.
- Press the pastry into the sides and trim the tops with a knife.
- Blanch the asparagus in a little simmering water for a couple of minutes. Drain the spears and cut theminto three pieces.
- Spread a ½ tsp of pesto on the bottom of each tart case.
- Place the asparagus pieces over the top.
- Whisk the egg (or eggs) in a jug with the milk and a little salt and pepper and divide the mixture between the tarts. Be careful not to overfill them as the mixture will rise during cooking.
- Bake at 200℃ for about 20 minutes or until the pastry looks golden and the filling has set.
- Leave to cool in the case then remove the tarts from the tins.
- You can use a food processor to make the pastry.
- There will be some pastry left over, enough for eight small jam tarts.
- The asparagus water makes lovely stock.
- The tarts can be kept in the fridge for up to three days.
And as Tea Time Treats is celebrating anything colourful this month, my asparagoose tarts are heading off in that direction too at The Hedge Combers and Lavender and Lovage.
And with asparagus very much in season, these go to Feeding Boys for Simple and in Season.
Eating Al Fresco is a new monthly linky over at Munchies and Munckins. I’m sending my asparagus tarts in that direction too.
Other savoury tart recipes suitable for a picnic that you might like
- Creamy courgette puff pastry tarts via Family Friends Food
- Mediterranean hummus tart (vegan) via Wallflower Kitchen
- Polenta baskets with garlic mushrooms via Thinly Spread
- Purple sprouting broccoli flans via Kavey Eats
- Roasted vegetable tarts (gluten free) via Gluten Free SCD & Veggie
I am excited to be working with Cranks who are sponsoring National Vegetarian Week this year and have commissioned this post. Opinions are, as always, my own.