Do you know what I love most about September? If you thought “Asparagus”, then welcome to the club! I love it. To me it does not feel like spring until I see the first asparagus at The Fresh Market. I love it raw, steamed, fried, grilled, baked and boiled – the only way I don’t like it is out of a can. The very thought if eating the canned stuff turns me the same hideous colour of green - yuk!
Asparagus is one of the healthiest foods we can eat and we grow it right here in the Bay of Plenty – so no travel miles or excessive cool storing.
Just 100 grams of asparagus gives you 15% of your RDI (recommended daily intake) of vitamin A, 11% of the iron you need and 9% of your Vitamin C. Cook it in lemon juice and garlic (my favourite way) and get over 100% of your vitamin C, a good amount of calcium, magnesium, manganese and even some selenium (which is hard to get from food in NZ). So my favourite way to eat asparagus is also the healthiest. Simply add a little butter, the juice of a couple of lemons and your asparagus to a pan (remember to snap off the woody end) on a medium heat. Once it is nearly cooked, add in a couple of cloves of garlic, grated or pressed and allow cooking for a couple of minutes. Serve with some bread to mop up the delicious sauce left over.
The recipe I am sharing with you today is an asparagus and tomato tart. The recipe includes a short pastry (remember to use plain flour), and is best served with a green salad with a lemon and olive oil dressing.
Mawera Karetai x
150g plain flour
75g butter, diced, cold
1/2 tsp dried basil, optional
1 bunch asparagus spears (around 8)
4slices of streaky bacon cut in half (optional but so worth it)
3 large eggs, beaten with a fork
1 garlic clove, grated or pressed
4 tomatoes sliced into 1/4 , or 8 small cherry tomatoes, halved
A good handful of basil, chopped
25g Parmesan or Tasty cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to season
If you have any feta, you can crumble that in, too.
Preheat oven to 190C
TO MAKE PASTRY: Place butter, flour and herbs all together in a bowl. With the fingertips, rub the butter and seasoned flour together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, use a food processor, remembering to pulse until the better is cut through. Once mixed, add a little water, combining the mixture together using your hands – but work lightly so you don’t melt the butter. Keep adding water until the pastry comes together.
Roll out the pastry until approx. just under 1/2 cm thick and wide enough to cover dish. Flop the pastry in half, placing it over half of the dish, then fold the pastry out to cover the other half of the dish. Rearrange the pastry so that there are no air-gaps between the dish and the pastry. Then, with a rolling pin, roll off the ragged edges of pastry from around the edge of the dish.
Prick the base with a fork and the blind bake. Tear off a piece of baking paper. Place the baking paper on top of the pastry and pour the baking beans on top. Put the pastry in the oven for 8 mins. Once time is up, remove the parchment and beans and place back in the oven for a further 8 mins.
Whilst pastry is baking, mix together the beaten eggs, cream, crushed garlic and seasoning. Combine with a whisk. Halve cherry tomatoes, slicing horizontally across the tomato (as opposed to slicing straight through the centre where the stem comes from). For looks sake, this gives equal halves, where the centres look the same.
Snap off the woody end, and blanch your asparagus in salted water for 1 minute. Remove and pat dry, then wrap the cut end with bacon . If the asparagus is quite thick, halve lengthways - however, do this after it is cooked.
Once pastry is out of the oven, place the asparagus, grated cheese and tomatoes, cut side up in a pattern of your choosing. Sprinkle over the basil (and feta if you have it), then add the egg mixture on top.
Bake in the middle of your oven for around 25 mins, or until filling is firm when touched.