Asparagus, speck and pecorino tart

Asparagus, speck and pecorino tart

By
From
How to Cook Pastry
Serves
4-6
Photographer
Peter Cassidy

Parmesan can be substituted for the pecorino, and Parma ham can be used instead of Speck in this tart. You can also replace the chives with parsley or basil. You will need an 11 x 35cm loose-based rectangular flan tin.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 quantity Rich shortcrust pastry, made using herb variation
extra flour, to dust

For the filling

Quantity Ingredient
12 fine asparagus spears
or 6 thicker spears
120g pecorino cheese
5 slices 6-month aged speck
1 egg
2 extra yolks
250ml double cream
salt
freshly ground white pepper
a few chives, to finish

Method

  1. Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 3mm thickness and use to line the loose-based rectangular flan tin. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until firm to the touch, 20–30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200°C.
  2. For the filling, bend the lower end of each asparagus stalk until it snaps, and discard the lower woody ends. Trim the spears with a sharp knife so they are all the same length. If the spears are thick, peel off the skin from the lower half using a swivel peeler and cut them in half lengthways. Grate the Pecorino, tear the Speck into large pieces and set aside.
  3. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the asparagus for 1 minute. Drain quickly and refresh under very cold water to stop the asparagus cooking and to fix the vibrant green colour. Pat dry with kitchen paper and set aside.
  4. Place the flan tin on a baking sheet and blind bake the pastry case for 15–20 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5 minutes, or until the pastry looks dry and feels sandy to the touch. If it is starting to take on colour, move it to a lower oven shelf. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 150°C.
  5. Put the whole egg, yolks and cream into a small bowl and mix well with a fork, then pass through a sieve into a bowl. Add 80g of the grated Pecorino, then taste and season with salt and white pepper (bearing in mind that Speck and Pecorino are both quite salty).
  6. Pour the egg, cream and cheese mixture into the tart case. Arrange the pieces of Speck in an even pattern on top, leaving enough room for the asparagus spears. Place the asparagus spears in between the pieces of ham and scatter over the remaining Pecorino.
  7. Carefully transfer to the lower third of the oven and bake for 20–30 minutes until the custard is pale yellow and just a little soft in the centre. To check, give the tart a little shake; there should be no violent wobble in the centre. (An overcooked filling will rise up and feel springy to the touch.)
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet, then remove the tart from the tin and slide onto a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, finely chop enough chives to give about 1 tbsp, and sprinkle them over the top of the tart.
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