Monthly Archives: June 2010

Parsley pesto

Apart from the pasticcini diversion and tasty fried anchovy and courgette flower experiments that I’m hoping to write about next week, we’re still having a parsley phase here at Via mastro giorgio 81. Vincenzo suggested parsley daze might be a more appropriate way of describing the situation, as he ate another mouthful of very green food.

I made the parsley soup again, but this time with vegetable stock. It was good, but the stock was, as I suspected, unnecessary. Parsley soup is, in my opinion, a soup best made with water. Then I made Fergus Henderson’s parsley salad, the one he famously serves with the roast marrow bone at St John, lots of chopped parsley, tiny capers and finely chopped shallots dressed with olive oil and lemon. I ate it with some lardo di colonnata on toast. I should post about that too because it’s  delicious. Then I made parsley pesto.

I’ve made parsley pesto before, but this time I’d planned to do some research. Jodi suggested using walnuts instead of pine nuts, another friend uses almonds, I seem to remember reading that you can blanch the parsley first and I wanted to try that. But in the end, time, work and habit meant I made it, like before, using the Genovese basil pesto recipe as a template but substituting basil with parsley. So: pine nuts, really fresh flat leaved parsley, Ligurian olive oil, half parmesan and pecorino sardo and on this occasion, garlic.

Vincenzo is extraordinarily patient. If he’s cooking, he makes pesto in the pestle and mortar, a long, slow grind. I, on the other hand, am not very patient, but do know that pesto made with a pestle and mortar has a texture and consistency that can’t be achieved in a food processor or blender. So I compromise. I pound the nuts and garlic in the pestle and mortar with a little salt which means the garlic is crushed as opposed to being chopped with a blade. Then I tip the nut and garlic paste into bowl, add the parsley a little at a time and use the stick blender to reduce this to a thick, green paste. I try to work the mixture as little as possible. Then using a wooden spoon I gradually stir in the oil, and last but not least, the cheese.

In the absence of linguine or trennete we stirred the pesto into spaghetti alla chittarta. This is a pasta dish that reminds you how important the pasta cooking water is. It is crucial that you use and save some of the water the pasta has been cooking in – it will be cloudy with starch – to loosen the pesto a little. Generally I put a couple of tablespoons of pesto into a warm serving bowl, then just before draining the pasta, I scoop ladleful of the well salted, starchy pasta water into the pesto to thin it into a looser, creamy paste which will coat the pasta. When I drain the pasta I save a little more of the water in case it is required. Finally, I tip the drained pasta into the bowl, stir and add more pesto and pasta water if it’s nessesary, to achieve the silky, slippy, creamy consistency we like.

Parsley pesto may not have the extraordinary peppery, warm, spicy heat of basil pesto, but it has other qualities, it is fragrant, subtle, grassy and wholesome. We both agreed that a little garlic works well with the parsley – I find garlic can overwhelms basil and we often (not always) leave it out of basil pesto. We liked the simplicity of this plateful. We like that parsley is the star.

I think that parsley pesto will be taking occasional turns with basil pesto from now on. I am looking forward to trying this recipe with walnuts, maybe toasting them first, then I’d like to experiment with almonds or as the brilliant Alex suggests, brazil nuts. I imagine parsley pesto could be very good thinned with a little more olive oil and stirred into boiled, sliced new potatoes and slim green beans or a good, green flecked dressing for cherry tomatoes to be piled on toast.

Last thing, I think pesto is a really personal thing, these are loose guidelines, feel free to play around with these measurments and quantities.

Parsley pesto

Makes a small jar (which gave us 6 servings)

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g pine nuts
  • Bunch (about 150g) of Italian flat leaved parsley
  • 250ml extra virgin olive oil (preferably a light and fruity one, Ligurian is great)
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan and/ or pecorino sardo

Separate the leaves from the parsley and wash and then dry them very carefully and throughly in a clean, dry teatowel.

Either in a food processor or using a pestle and mortar start with the garlic and salt. Smash the garlic and then add the nuts and crush them.

Add the parsley a few leaves at a time and crush or pulse the food processor or stick blender until you have a thick, green paste.

Stop the food processor if you are using it. Now work by hand, preferably with a wooden spoon. Pour in the oil in a thin stream, stirring all the time until it is incorporated. Stir in the cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve within a couple of days. The pesto will keep well covered in the fridge with a thin layer of olive oil over it to stop it discoloring. Freeze if you will have any left over after 3 days.

I don’t need to tell you how to cook pasta, but I will note that we eat 100g of pasta each so 200g in total into which we stir in 3 really large tablespoons of parsley pesto.

Talking of Peroni, I’m off for one now. Hope you had a sunny and happy weekend where ever you are.

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Pasticcini di mandorle

When I was travelling, or rather, roaming around Sicily on my slightly demented and not very grand tour, I became quite besotted with, amongst other edible things, the little, soft, almond biscuits, the pasticcini di mandorle you find in almost every bakery (forno) or pasticceria. For about a month, everyday at about 5 o’clock, as the shops began to roll back their shutters and unlock their doors after the long lunch break and the hottest hours of the day, I would seek out and then purchase my daily dose of almond. Clutching my small paper bag, I’d go and buy myself an almond granita before finding the nearest wall, ledge, bench to perch on, and inhale my double almond merenda. I then discovered cannoli and my affections shifted, but that’s another post.

The shape and texture of the Pasticcini di mandorle varied from place to place, oven to oven. Some were smaller and sticky, a marzipan sweet really, others more of a biscuit. But most pasticcini di mandorle I ate, were slightly crisp and cracked on the outside, then inside soft and dense giving way to a sticky and almost chewy heart.

The basic recipe for most Pasticcini di mandorle is simple, it’s really an almond marzipan; ground almonds and fine sugar bound with egg. This soft dough is then moulded or piped into balls, or shapes and then baked. Then around this basic recipe are lots of variations. Every so often I would try, and fail to read something written in Italian pinned to the shop wall behind the counter. I think it’s safe to assume it was boasting a long family tradition, the best pasticcini in the village and probably hinted at the closely guarded, secret ingredient. Or maybe it was just a notice about health and safety.

I became a part-time Pasticcini di mandorle detective, sitting on walls then pounding the streets trying to distract myself from my very odd situation – you may remember I’d fled – by analysing that days purchase. There was often a hint of lemon or orange zest, sometimes the scent of orange flower water or vanilla. Some certainly contained a dash of something alcoholic, maybe limoncello or almond wine, or tiny bits of very finely chopped candied fruit. I tasted some, near Taormina I think, where the dough was mixed with powdered chocolate, an odd colour it must be said, but really quite nice even if they weren’t my kind of thing. Many pasticcini I saw were studded with a rather unnaturally red glace cherry or whole almond, others sprinkled with chopped nuts. Some were dipped in chocolate.

After much consideration, pounding and perching on various walls, I decided my favourite were the very simplest.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get around to making Pasticcini di mandorle. I may no longer be an almond junkie who needs a fix everyday at 5 o’clock, but I’m extremely partial to one or two every now and then. With a cup of coffee, at this time of year iced coffee, or maybe best of all, with a very bitter Amaro after dinner.

It may be a simple recipe, but this being Italy, and what with all the mamma’s and nonna’s and all the secret and not so secret recipes, there are endless variations and opinion about the quantities for Pasticcini di mandorle. The fiercest debate seems to be about the egg. Should you use just the yolk, just the white or the whole egg ? The second most passionately argued point the proportions of almond flour to sugar. At one point I had 11 pages open on the computer and seven books all telling me different things and a throbbing headache.

We ended up making three small batches of Pasticcini di mandorle, one with egg yolks, one with egg whites and one using whole eggs. We then ate a lot of pasticcini, on different days I hasten to add, and voted with our stomachs. All three batches were modest successes. I probably liked the ones made with egg white least, they were just too sticky even though I’d overcooked them. The ones made with just egg yolk seemed too rich and we missed the crisp lightness of the crust. Pasticcini di mandorle made with the whole egg however, were just right, crisp, cracked and toasted on the outside and inside, very soft, dense and just a bit chewy. What’s more the whole egg dough/paste was by far the easiest to work with.

Our favourites were made following a recipe from Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. I didn’t visit Puglia during my demented not very grand tour, but we have visited many times in the last few years and eaten almond pasticcini very bit as delicious as those I had in Sicily.  My parents did a terrific cooking and wine course near Lecce back in May and this was the recipe they learned there. It includes a zest of a whole unwaxed lemon which we both appreciated. Next time I am going to try adding a few drops of orange flower water. I fear I’ve picked up the 5 o’clock habit once again.

The key to making balls from the sticky mixture is dusting your hands and the ball with lots and lots of icing sugar.

Pasticcini di mandorle (little, soft, almond biscuits)

makes about 15 – 20

  • 300g ground almonds
  • 200g icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
  • the zest of a large unwaxed lemon
  • 2 medium-sized eggs gently beaten with a fork

Mix the ground almonds, icing sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the beaten egg and then using a fork or your fingers, bring the mixture together into a soft sticky dough.

Dust your hands with icing sugar and then scoop out walnut sized lump of dough, gently shape and then roll it between your palms into a ball. Dust the ball with more icing sugar and then put it on a baking tray lined with 2 layer of greaseproof paper. Continue making the rest of the balls. The balls should be well spaced as they swell as they cook.

Make an indentation into the center of each ball so they cook evenly.

Bake at 180° for about 20 minutes or when they are golden brown underneath and cracked, crisp and very pale gold on top.

Allow to cool. They will keep in an airtight tin for up to a month. At this time of year I like one with unsweetened iced coffee or after dinner with a glass of bitter amaro.

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Parsley time

I planned to start this post by claiming that we always, always have a jar, glass, bunch, sprig or mazzeto of parsley in the kitchen. I then realised this would be a fat lie, because at this precise moment, the contents of the jar above is long gone, and there isn’t a sprig or a stem, not a single a leaf of the handsome, very green herb in our kitchen. There isn’t even a bedraggled, neglected, withered stalk lurking under the carrots and the other vegetable orphans in the bottom draw of the fridge. An absence of parsley! A rare thing, but a thing nonetheless.

We almost always have parsley in the kitchen. I wish I could tell you that it’s freshly picked from the garden, but we don’t have one, so it isn’t. It’s usually nice and perky though, because each day, when one or other of us goes to the market – we live virtually on top of the splendid, workday market in Testaccio, five minutes from an organic farmers market and have very erratic jobs, so we can go every day  – we are given a handful of parsley.

Given, because unless you are in need of a great quantity, as I was the other day,  you are usually given parsley, which is called prezzemelo, in Italy. Once you’ve finished the rest of your shopping, a few stalks of flat leaved parsley with broad, bright green leaves and gangly, plump legs will be tucked into your shopping bag. Depending on your loyalty to the stall, you might also be given other odori (which can be translated as aromatics) a carrot, a stick of celery, some basil, a branch of rosemary and sprig of mint or sage.

We almost always have parsley because we use it all the time. Whether it be the fragrant base of a soup, sauce, stuffing or stew, tucked in or under fish, chopped and stirred into cold sauces and salads or sprinkled, like green confetti, over this, that and the other.

Recently I have been using parsley even more than usual, hence the big bunch above. It all started with a wave and punch of nostalgia for watercress (which I adore) from the watercress farm near my parents house. Thoughts of watercress salad, watercress tucked in cold roast beef sandwiches and my mum’s watercress soup. Unfortunately for me, but reassuring in a world where you can find most things everywhere and even more disturbingly at anytime of year, watercress is not to be found in Rome.

In the absence of watercress and yearning a green summer soup, I debated the merits of rocket, basil, spinach and celery but finally settled on trying to make a parsley soup. Using my mum’s watercress soup as a template, I sautéed spring onion (the marvelous pink tinged spring onions (cipolle) from Tropea) and the plump parsley stalks in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Next some diced potato, a little dry white wine, which you evaporate away, some water (or stock if you like) and generous pinch of coarse salt. I stirred and then let the pan bubble and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Then I added the parsley leaves and let the soup cook for another couple of minutes. Finally I passed the soup through the smallest holed circle of my mouli and checked the seasoning. If you don’t have a mouli – in which case you should think about getting one because they are invaluable for beautifully textured soups and sauces – a trusty stick blender will do a good job, even though the texture will not be as smooth and silky. Passing the soup through a sieve is long-winded option which creates a beautiful texture if you can be bothered

I let the soup cool to a summer appropriate temperature, which for me is tepid. I imagine this soup would also be excellent chilled, like a nice very cold vichyssoice. I did consider – alla Simon Hopkinson – about adding a little cream, but eventually decided against it in favour of some nice olive oil.

This soup may not have the peppery warmth of one made with watercress, but it’s really delicious nonetheless. It’s very green, beautifully simple, subtle but surprisingly full of flavour. The honest, fragrant goodness of the parsley is given body by the potatoes and gentle spring onion base notes, which in turn are given a certain creamyness by the butter and oil. The plump sweetness and the savory celery-like flavour of the fat parsley stalks really emerge in this soup. Best of all, it’s nice to see a beloved herb, maybe the most vital and reliable member of our kitchen chorus, taking center stage.

The nicest, freshest, most vibrantly green parsley you can find, a generous bunch with fat stalks and tender leaves.

Parsley soup

I have made this soup three times now, twice with water and once with light chicken stock. I loved both. However the water, even though it doesn’t lend the same depth of flavour as the chicken stock, made a simpler, purer, soup, which allowed the parsley to really show off. I plan to try it with a light vegetable stock next week so I may well amend this paragraph. I know some people are funny about tepid and cold soup -  not me – you can of course eat it warm.

2 – 4 servings

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • A bunch of spring onions, white and green roughly chopped or 2 large leeks, white part only sliced
  • 1 large potato (about 4oog) peeled and roughly diced
  • a very large bunch (about 300g) of flat leaved parsley – leaves separated from stems and stems coarsely chopped.
  • 100ml dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 litre filtered water or light chicken stock
  • salt

Warm the oil and butter in a large based soup pan and then sweat the onion or leek and parsley stalks gently, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the potato, stir and then the wine. Allow the wine to evaporate away and the add the water or stock, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for another 20 minutes.

Coarsely chop the parsley leaves and add them to the pan and simmer for two minutes.

Pass the soup through the mouli, fine sieve or blend with a stick blender, taste, adjust seasoning. Serve at room temperature or chilled with a blob of yogurt or some olive oil and bread.

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Jammin

Our first strawberries this year, bought for a picnic on the first of May, were handsome, even featured, seductively heart-shaped, deep red things. They turned out to be terribly disappointing, taut, hollow and quite without taste. The berry equivalents of  tucked, toned, tight, plucked, perfect smile hollywood starlets. Strawberries more adapted to hurling than eating. Hurled they were. Then last week, punnets of scarlet fragole favette, reassuringly inconsistent in shape and size, arrived at Testaccio market from Terracina a coastal town south of Rome. Sweet, tender and as lovely as rose bud lips.

We ate these three just so, plump and juicy fine, quickly enough to avoid putting them in the fridge. I like avoiding the fridge. They only needed a tweak to pull out the green crowns and a wipe with a damp cloth – they were far too delicate to be drowned in water. The larger ones were sliced in two. They didn’t need sugar or lemon but Vincenzo had a twist of black pepper over his, insisting it brings out the flavour, something I am yet to be convinced of.

Talking of drowning, if we’d had some very heavy cream I’d have drowned  my third serving of berries in it, but we didn’t. I didn’t suffer its absence, not considering my imminent trip to London and the extremely large strawberry, scone and thick cream tea I intend to polish off with my sister Rosie and her new little girl, my first niece, Beattie.

On Saturday morning, to assuage my present compulsion to put food in jars I bought three kilos of strawberries to make jam. I have long harboured daydreams of having a cupboard full of French kilner and le parfait jars filled with pickles, preserves, compotes, tomatoes for a year, things under oil, things under alcohol. Vincenzo pointed out this larder was not going to suddenly materialise, and that if I wanted it, it was about time I started.

My mum is a great marmalade and jam maker, a very nice habit I took entirely for granted when I was growing up. I, on the other hand, am a very enthusiastic jam, jelly, conserve and preserve novice with a tendency towards stickiness and setting anxiety. I had a beer for lunch and then approached proceedings with a somewhat louche and cavalier attitude. I was working on the principle that even if it didn’t set, a deep red elixir of good strawberries and sugar, edgy with red currants and lemon juice would be delicious, even if it was poured.

Strawberry jam

Adapted from Jill Normans ‘ New Penguin cookery book‘ and my friend Ada.

  • 2kg strawberries
  • 250g punnet of red currants,
  • 1kg Jam/ preserving sugar,
  • juice of 2 large lemons.

Hull the strawberries wipe them with a damp cloth – wet fruit does not a good preserve make. Drain them well and cut them into pieces. Pull the stalks from the red currants and wash them. Layer the fruit in a large pan with sugar, ending with a layer of sugar. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to macerate for 6 hours.

Put 3 small saucers in the freezer for testing later. Put the pan on a low heat and add half the lemon juice. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase the heat, add the rest of the lemon juice and boil – a rolling boil – for 1o minutes. remove from heat

Test by putting a little of the jam onto one of the cold saucers and put it into the fridge for a couple of minutes. Then push the jam with your finger, if it wrinkles it is set. If not, boil for 5 more minutes, remove from heat and then test again. If the jam is still not set, boil for another 5 minutes and test again. It will be set by now!

Wait for 15 minutes then pour the jam – carefully – into warm, clean sterilized jars, cover and seal while the jam is still warm to create a vacuum.

It set. Sour dough toast, lots of butter, sticky, sweet jam with a delightful kick of red currant – my jam, a pot of illy coffee, its scent curling around the flat, imminent arrival of English newspaper and crossword, option of going back to bed at any given moment. All’s well.

A woman in possession of a large quantity of strawberry jam and plans to make more is best advised to make a jam tart. Nothing fussy, a simple not-too-sweet pastry, filled with a puddle of jam. The pastry; 1oog butter, 30g icing sugar, one large egg, 200g flour. To make the pastry; put the butter, icing sugar and egg in a bowl (or food processor) and work together quickly. Blend in the flour and work together into a very soft homogenous paste.

Now working quickly with your fingertips, roughly – this is no time for neatness – push the soft pastry into a pie tin or tart case. The pastry needs to come up high enough to hold a pool of jam, you know the sort of thing I’m sure. Chill the case for 20 minutes or so. Spoon in the jam, making sure it is well within the pastry ridge.

Slide the tart into the oven – the one you have remembered to set at 180° – for 20 minutes or so, the pastry should be golden at the edges and the jam bubbling. Wait at least 20 minutes before slicing into the tart so the jam has time to settle back into some sort of firmness. Eat and Remember how much you like jam tart.

We’re jammin‘ -
To think that jammin’ was a thing of the past;
We’re jammin’,
And I hope this jam is gonna last.


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A Quiche by any other name

My brother Ben laughed when I told him I was making a Quiche. ‘At least call it a savory tart‘ he scoffed before our conversation was cut short by the kitchen timer and a suspicious curl of dark smoke seeping from the base of the oven. I hung up and retrieved the pastry case, it’s colour, like a rich tea biscuit suggested all was well! So the smell? Closer inspection of our shamefully black and greasy oven, something I usually avoid considering its eminent replacement, revealed a twisted slice of carbon, my forgotten toast.

I’ll resume this conversation with my brother, most probably over a pint or two next time I’m in London, I’m curious to unearth the roots of his aversion of the Q word. I’ve heard that Real men don’t eat Quiche. Maybe they can if they call it something else.

Quiche, savory tart, I’m happy with both titles. Maybe savory tart is safer, I’d hate to ruffle any French feathers, especially considering all the crimes against Quiche the English have committed in the last 50 years. We hijacked the delicate quivering Quiche or galette Lorraine; a bread dough or flaky pastry base filled with diced butter, thick ripe cream and fresh eggs maybe a few pieces of chopped bacon, baked until golden, blistered and alluring, and we bastardized it. We unleashed an epidemic of thick leaden, hefty horrors and we called them Quiches. Each one was stuffed with an unsightly rabble of as many the following as possible; hunks of ham, prawns, mushrooms, crabmeat, cheddar cheese, pineapple, olives, small trinkets, paperclips, more cheese and then more cheese. We suspended these bits in rubbery custard which may or may not have been made with evaporated milk. We re-heated then and served them in heavyweight wedges, thud.

But enough of all that, these savory tarts are delightful things, delicate and simple enough to be called a kind-of-quiche really! But lets call them tarts. As you know, I love a tart or four.

My savory tart phase, which culminated in this quartet for a ‘Kind of English picnic’ at our Friends Pub ( I’ll tell you about that another day), began with Allegra McEvedy’s Quiche from her guardian clickalong a couple of weeks ago. It’s a clickalong cookalong really, a lively, occasionally messy affair which is rather like a sing-a-long. Only instead of the song sheet you have a recipe and instead of doh ray me you chop, sizzle, bake in time with Allegra as she conducts a chorus of other home cooks in a live internet cooking class. You call in your rabble and eat the results. You can of course singalong while you cookalong.

The clickalong was predictably good fun and the Quiche a great success. But the pastry case was the real revelation and one immediately embraced in a mildly obsessive manner. It’s a very buttery pastry, 200g four, 100g of butter, a flick of salt, 2 eggs yolks and 2tbs milk which you bring together into a very easy-going ball which you then squash, squish and ease into a tart tin with your fingertips. No rolling required! Do you know you could do such a thing? I didn’t.

You then bake the tart case blind until the colour of pale biscuits and then spoon in the vegetables softened in butter, cover with a layer of heavy cream and fresh eggs and bake until just set and golden. The filling is delicious, and the pastry a light, flaky buttery delight, We devoured it with slim green beans doused in olive oil.

Two days later – I am a great believer in making things you like again and again, a delicious rash of something nice – I made the tart for the second time. But this time without the new potatoes, This ommison was hotly debated at the dinner table as Vincenzo is a great believer in potatoes whenever possible. We eventually managed to agree their absence, however upsetting, made space for more asparagus and creamy, quivering custard which can only be a good thing.

Later that week, feeling extremely comfortable with my new pastry and rather cocky about the egg and cream custard, I swapped the asparagus for some smoked trout and a handful of finely chopped parsley. The result was, is extremely good.

Both the savory tarts, this, the fish one, and the asparagus and spring onion one that follows – sorry about the terribly long-winded recipes – are best about 15 minutes after they have come out of the oven. The flavours settle and mellow but everything is still just warm. They are still lovely after a few hours, but lose their charm the day after and I don’t think they refrigerate well at all. The pastry however refrigerates brilliantly, so you could make the case in the morning or the night before and tuck it in the fridge. Then all you need to do is saute the vegetables, whisk up the cream and eggs and slide it all into the oven. Warm tart, big green salad, some new potatoes, nice chutney, supper. I for one have found what our table will be wearing this summer.

Last thing, to get a nice golden burnished top, I often put the tart under the grill for a just a few seconds when it comes out of the oven. Just remember to keep an eagle eye on it.

Smoked fish tart

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter, cubed
  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • salt and pepper

For the filling

  • A bunch of spring onions
  • 100g smoked fish (I used trout but salmon or makeral should work well)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 30g butter
  • 150ml double (heavy) cream
  • 4 medium-sized free range eggs
  • salt and freshly grated black pepper.

Set the oven to 180°C.

You need a 24cm fluted tart ring, 3cm deep.

First the pastry: Sift the flour and add seasoning into a large bowl. Add the cold diced butter and then rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine but coarse sand. Add the gently beaten egg yolks and milk. Clench the mixture together lightly – you aren’t looking for a smooth dough ball you are just bringing together the ingredients into a slightly sticky mass.

Now working quickly with your fingertips push the soft pastry into your tart ring. Do the sides first and then the base until you get an even casing with no holes. Keep small ball of pastry over so you can make some repairs after you’ve blind baked it. Don’t worry if the pastry is slightly higher than the tart case, this is actually a good thing, it accounts for any shrinkage.

Put the tart case in the freezer or fridge for 15 minutes.

Get the tart case out of the freezer (the pastry should be hard by now) and Bake the tart case blind for 12 minutes No need for any beans but if you are worried you can always line with greaseproof/foil and fill with baking beans.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and then saute and soften the spring onion over a gentle flame until it is soft and withered. Turn off the flame and add the smoked fish and the parsley, stir, taste, season (the fish will be salty so go easy) taste.

By now the tart case is looking and smelling cooked (you don’t want it to be browning really) take it out and put on a baking tray. Reduce the oven temp to 170°C.

Now is the time to repair any cracks in your tart case with the left over pastry.

Tip the onion and fish mixture into the tart case and spread evenly with a fork

In a bowl beat together the 4 eggs, double cream, a pinch of salt and a twist of pepper.

Season, pour the egg and cream onto the tart and, using a fork if necessary, let it meander its way between onion and fish; the mark of a great Quiche is that the eggy custard fills the case all the way to the very top but is not overflowing at all.

Put the tart on a baking tray in the oven for 30 minutes when the tart should be going golden brown round the edges and just about set in the middle. If your tart is not golden enough put it under a hot grill for a few seconds.

Wait about 15 minutes for the flavours to settle

Asparagus and spring onion tart.

Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s Quiche

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter, cubed
  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • salt and pepper

For the filling

  • A small bunch of spring onions
  • 3 plump cloves of garlic
  • 300g asparagus (untrimmed weight)
  • 30g butter
  • 150ml double (heavy) cream
  • 4 medium-sized free range eggs
  • 80g freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and freshly grated black pepper.

Set the oven to 180°C.

You need a 24cm fluted tart ring, 3cm deep.

First the pastry: Sift the flour and add seasoning into a large bowl. Add the cold diced butter and then rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine but coarse sand. Add the gently beaten egg yolks and milk. Clench the mixture together lightly – you aren’t looking for a smooth dough ball you are just bringing together the ingredients into a slightly sticky mass.

Now working quickly with your fingertips push the soft pastry into your tart ring. Do the sides first and then the base until you get an even casing with no holes. Keep small ball of pastry over so you can make some repairs after you’ve blind baked it. Don’t worry if the pastry is slightly higher than the tart case, this is actually a good thing, it accounts for any shrinkage.

Put the tart case in the freezer or fridge for 15 minutes.

Get the tart case out of the freezer (the pastry should be hard by now) and Bake the tart case blind for 12 minutes No need for any beans but if you are worried you can always line with greaseproof/foil and fill with baking beans.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and then saute and soften the spring onion and garlic over a gentle flame.

Snap off the woody ends of your asparagus, which can be as much as a third of the length (these can be kept to make a nice stock for a risotto or soup). Give them a wash then slice the stalks into 1 cm pieces but keep the tips whole. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Turn off the flame. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper

By now the tart case is looking and smelling cooked (you don’t want it to be browning really) take it out and put on a baking tray. Reduce the oven temp to 170°C.

Now is the time to repair any cracks in your tart case with the left over pastry. Then spoon the onion and asparagus mixture into the case.

In a bowl beat together the 4 eggs, double cream and two-thirds of the parmesan.

Season, pour the egg and cream onto the tart and, using a fork if necessary, let it meander its way between the vegetables; the mark of a great Quiche is that the eggy custard fills the case all the way to the very top but is not overflowing at all.

Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan on top, then put the tart on a baking tray in the oven for 25-30 minutes when the tart should be going golden brown round the edges and just about set in the middle. If your tart is not golden enough, put it under the grill for a few seconds

Wait about 15 minutes for the flavours to settle.

Asparagus and spring onion tart with green beans and lemon chutney

It feels like long time. It isn’t really, Well no longer than usual for me. It’s probably because I haven’t been calling by as often as I’d like, I certainly haven’t been keeping up with all your writing. Blame it on the boogie, a translating project which is way beyond me – I was under the influence when I agreed – and the end of term. My big students are all about to embark on exams and my little Italian ones to perform a musical version of ‘Three little pigs in English. I know which one I’m more nervous about. I have lots to tell you about, the ‘Kind of English picnic’ for the coterie of misfits at our friends pub, my latest frenzy of mostly successful pickle and jam making, more jelly, a pork pie, an ugly cake, a good salad, pasta obviously. We have time I know.

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Filed under cakes and baking, Eggs, food, pies and tarts, recipes