After six weeks in the craziness of Indonesia, landing in Europe has been an amazing experience. Coming from a place where the general hum is the sound of loud scooters and touting stallholders, we have found ourselves in a town so peaceful, even the church bells sound too loud. Although that could have something to do with it being next door….
We landed in Frankfurt and were immediately whisked away to this beautiful little town of Walldorf, the home of our amazing friend and her very generous family. I had to show our new friends here a youtube clip of the old children’s show, Postman Pat, as a way to explain how this town seems to me so far. Rolling green fields, farms selling seasonal produce, small pubs, fresh baked goods from the local bakery, old guys smoking and chatting on a park bench, and friendly ladies in the supermarket who were only too happy to help us choose between all of the different types of sour cream and milk.
It’s asparagus season here at the moment and the locals love it so much there is even an asparagus festival in a couple of weeks, I wish we were still going to be there for that, I could have entered the asparagus peeling contest!
White asparagus is favoured here and is sold in different grades, first grade being the straightest, whitest, not too thick and not too thin. This was, of course, what we bought from the farm that we visited, as well as some new season strawberries and radishes. We also got to go out into the field and have a go at picking some asparagus, it’s not an easy task and I can definitely appreciate why it is one of the more expensive vegetables. Mostly Polish people work the fields, backbreaking work for a couple of months a year, made worth it for them by the good pay. The lady that we met, and who showed us how to dig out the lovely white spears, has been coming here every year for twenty years!
After hardly getting the chance to cook while we were in Indonesia, I was jumping out of my skin with excitement to get back into the kitchen. And so excited to be able to cook for our generous hosts. I love making tarts and this one looked beautiful with the asparagus and the spring onions. You could use green asparagus if you can’t find white, just blanch it quickly rather than boiling it.
1 1/2 cups plain flour
150g cold butter, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 tbs cold water
400g white asparagus, peeled, ends trimmed off
100g white asparagus, peeled, ends trimmed off and shaved into ribbons
1 tbs white sugar
2 tbs salt
8 spring onions, peeled, cut to about 15cm lengths, and cut in half vertically
olive oil, for drizzling
100g gruyere cheese, finely grated
1 cup milk
100g chèvre (goats cheese), sliced into 5mm thick pieces
Bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
Bunch dill, leaves picked
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
For the pastry, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, add the butter and use fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until mixture resembles sand. Add the egg yolk and the water. Mix with a spoon until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until just smooth, about 1min. Wrap in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Turn the pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out to a 3mm-thick disc. Grease and line the base of a round, fluted tart tin, with removable base (or any tart tin that you have). Line with the pastry, trim most of the excess but leave about 1/2cm of overhang to allow for shrinkage. Prick the base with a fork. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to rest.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper. Fill with pastry weights or rice. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove paper and pastry weights or rice. Cook for a further 7 minutes or until golden. Set aside.
Place the spring onions on a lined baking tray, cut side up, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and cook, for about 20mins, or until golden and soft. Set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the sugar and salt. Add the 400g asparagus and cook for about 10-15mins, until just tender (time will depend on the thickness of the asparagus). Remove and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, gruyere, and milk with some salt and pepper. Pour mixture into tart case. Arrange the spring onions, boiled asparagus, and sliced goats cheese around the tart in a sort of clock design. Place in the oven and cook, for about 30mins, or until golden and firm in the middle. Remove and set aside for at least 10mins before serving.
While tart is cooking, prepare the salad.
In a bowl, place the 100g shaved asparagus and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for a minute, strain, and refresh under cold water. Squeeze out excess water and return to the bowl along with the herbs. Add the lemon juice, olive oil and some salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Only add the walnuts just before serving.
To serve, add the walnuts to the salad and toss to combine. Top the tart with the salad if desired, or serve it alongside.