Spring brings with it new shoots of green, announcing the potential for the summer ahead.
Asparagus just sums that up so well!
I have just entered this tart in the March Food Joust on the Foodie Blog Roll, the forum for Food Bloggers. It requires that you make a dish using three ingredients. This month they were almonds, asparagus and lemongrass. Here's my entry.
Asparagus and Lemongrass Cream Tart
For the Pastry you need:
100g fridge cold butter
75g ground almonds
125g white flour
1/2-3/4 cup of ice cold salted water
For the filling you need:
2 bunches of asparagus approx 550g
1 stem of lemon grass approx 20g
250ml of thick double cream
400g of ricotta
1 heaped desert spoon of arrowroot
lots of salt and pepper
a large spoonful of semolina
At least an hour before you want to assemble and cook the tart make the pastry and prepare the cream.
Place the ground almonds and flour in a large mixing bowl, run your hands under a cold tap to cool them, and then rub in the cold butter using your fingertips until it looks like very fine breadcrumbs. Add 1/2 cup of really icy cold salted water and let it seep into the mixture before gently forming a ball. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and put in the fridge.
Cut the tough end off the lemongrass stem and then slice the leaves lengthways. Put the cream in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and add the lemongrass. Turn the heat as low as possible and stir all the while crushing the lemongrass against the sides of the pan to release its lemony flavour. Bring it to just below simmering point, do not let it boil. The longer you take the more flavour will infuse into the cream.
Cook the asparagus until just tender. The best way to do this is in a tall pan. Place the asparagus stalks vertically in the boiling water, so that the tips are out of the water. Put on the lid. This way the tips cook in the steam. Check after 3 minutes, although depending on how old or tough the asparagus is it could take as long as six minutes. The next best option is to cut the tips off the stalks and boil the stalks and stem the tips in a steamer.
Put the asparagus tips to one side, and cut the stalks about 1/2" thick.
Strain the cream into a small mixing bowl, thus removing the lemongrass, Sieve the arrowroot into the cream and stir to ensure that there are no lumps.
Put the ricotta in a large mixing bowl and add salt and lots of pepper. Mix it in and then add the cut asparagus stalks. Pour in about 2/3 of the lemongrass cream mixture.
Roll out the pastry and use it to line a 12" ceramic flan dish. Put in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 8 for 5 minutes.
Take it out and sprinkle the base with a spoonful of ground semolina. This will absorb some of the liquid from the cheese and stop the pastry going soggy.
Fill the pastry with the ricotta and asparagus mixture and then pour over the top the reserved lemongrass cream. Arrange the asparagus tips on the surface.
Return to the oven and bake for a further 25-30 minutes.
Leave to cool completely.
Either serve it cold or warm it through ever so slightly.
Serve with homemade potato chips roasted in the oven.
This would also be perfect made in individual size tartlet size.