I love pies and tarts of all types, sweet and savoury. However, I’m not entirely convinced of the deliciousness of the meat pies I ate in Australia earlier this year, but that may be the fault of the bakery I bought them from – there are probably much better pies elsewhere in the country.
A savoury pie or tart can be hearty (like the Aussie ones) or delicate, depending on the filling. This recipe is more on the delicate side, but it doesn’t lack flavour.
Tart with green and white asparagus, garlic cream and aged comté and parmesan crust
This vegetable tart has a fantastic crust – I liked it so much the first time I made it that I immediately jotted the recipe down in my book of personal favourites. I wanted to make a cheesy, flaky crust that was delicious on its own, and I’ve succeeded with this one. To enhance the savoury flavour, I added freshly ground black pepper and chilli powder.
I made this tart with fresh green and white asparagus, as well as frozen petits pois, but vegetables can be used according to what is in season: try mushrooms and/or summer squash sautéed in butter (drain the excess liquid before adding to the tart), or semi-dried cherry tomatoes, and roasted winter squash.
Use a fine rasp-style grater (such as a Microplane) to grate the cheeses. I cooked my tart in a rectangular pan with a removable base (from Pan-Handler, Prince’s Building, Central) that measures 30cm by 21cm and is quite deep, at 3cm. If you don’t have a pan this size, use one with a similar area, round or rectangular, but with the same depth.
For the crust:
200 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
½ tsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp chilli powder, preferably piment d’Espelette
125 grams unsalted butter, chilled
30 grams aged comté, finely grated, chilled
10 grams aged parmesan, finely grated, chilled
About 40ml ice water
For the filling:
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1½ tsp fine sea salt
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs, at room temperature
240ml whole milk
12-16 thick stalks of asparagus, preferably a combination of green and white spears
100 grams petits pois
Fresh thyme leaves
Make the dough. Put the flour, sugar, pepper and chilli powder in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Cut the cold butter into 1cm chunks, add to the food processor and pulse untilthey are the size of small peas. Add the comté and parmesan cheeses and pulse briefly. Transfer the ingredients to a large bowl then drizzle with ice water. Mix with your fingertips to form a cohesive dough that is neither sticky nor dry. Knead briefly, then shape the dough into a disc, wrap with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to about 3mm thick and gently fit into the contours of the pan. Double over the dough at the edges and press firmly. Trim the excess dough from the rim. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Use a fork to poke holes in the base of the tart crust at 1cm intervals. Blind-bake the crust: lay a sheet of aluminium foil over the pastry, pressing it into the contours. Pour uncooked beans or rice onto the foil (to weigh down the crust so it doesn’t puff up) and place in the oven. Bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the edges of the crust are firm. Carefully remove the aluminium foil and beans or rice, and bake the crust for 10 more minutes, or until the base is matte but not fully cooked. Cool to room temperature. Leave the oven at 180 degrees.
While the pastry is baking, make the filling. Put the garlic cloves in a saucepan, add the cream, salt and nutmeg, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat, cover the pan with a lid and cook at a low simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the garlic is very soft. Use a blender (preferably a stick blender) or food processor to purée the garlic and cream until smooth. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the garlic cream and the milk. Transfer the mixture to a measuring jug for easy pouring.
Peel the tough fibres from the asparagus spears and trim them to fit into the tart. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and blanch the asparagus spears for 30 seconds (for very fat spears) or less (for skinnier spears). If using frozen petits pois, add them to the boiling water, stir once, then drain immediately. Use a clean, dry cloth to blot excess water from the asparagus and peas.
Arrange the asparagus in the cooled pastry crust, alternating the white and green spears. Scatter with the petits pois and place the tart on the lowest shelf of the oven. Carefully pour the garlic cream over the vegetables, filling the crust to the brim, then sprinkle with thyme leaves. Bake at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until set: the filling will be a little wobbly at the centre, and will puff slightly. Place the baked tart on a rack to cool for at least 30 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.