Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts.
~ Charles Lamb ~
The English author Charles Lamb’s quote makes me feel quite pleased. I was worried what a Google search on asparagus might turn up. After all, it does seem to have diuretic and supposedly aphrodisiac properties. Asparagus is a Spring crop and quite delicate in nature. You have to harvest and use it before the stems go woody. This Classic Asparagus Tart recipe comes from my mother-in-law. She was a gentle and kind-hearted English lady. I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law. Definitely not a monster-in-law at all! Cooking wasn’t her favourite activity but she had some dishes which try as I might, I just can’t make as she did. Classic Asparagus Tart was her savoury go-to recipe for the tea parties she hosted yearly on her birthday. And it was delicious!
Easy and cheesy
Asparagus is best eaten lightly grilled with some lemon butter and a hint of garlic. But do you remember the asparagus hors d’ oeuvres of the 1970s and 80s? Steamed asparagus smothered in cheese sauce. Naturally, that was one of my favourites and my mother-in-law’s Classic Asparagus Tart has the same vibe. A good old 1980s throwback like my Apple Cake. This asparagus tart has a delicately crunchy base, and the asparagus flavour is not overpowering. Add to that how easy it is to make and I can see why this was one of her most-used recipes. You can make the tart in advance and refrigerate it overnight. It is good at room temperature or warmed up. In fact, it is perfect for a warm lunch with some salad and a glass of crisp white wine.
Just follow the recipe
As the author of this recipe blog, I would tell you that following the recipe is of utmost importance. Honestly though, I often do not follow recipes. I like to “make it better” by adding my own touches – I suppose to be able to claim some of the accolades for myself. This recipe has taught me something very valuable though. I had to follow my mother-in-law’s recipe to the letter to test it for the blog and what do you know? It turned out just like hers! Previous attempts have always been slightly different from hers. Until I actually stuck to the recipe! So I have remembered the lesson my Home Economics teacher taught me many decades ago: when baking, just follow the recipe! This one will yield one slightly crunchy, very cheesy, asparagus tart which will certainly inspire gentle thoughts.
Classic Asparagus Tart
- ½ c grated sharp cheese
- ½ c all-purpose flour
- ½ c softened butter/margarine
- 1 400g can asparagus cut into 2cm pieces (reserve the liquid from the tin) See note *
- 1 tbsp butter / margarine
- 1 tbsp flour
- milk to top up the asparagus tin liquid to 1 cup
- 1 egg (beaten)
- ½ c grated cheese plus 2 tbsp for the topping
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp bread crumbs
- cayenne pepper or paprika
For the Base
- Combine the ingredients for the base in a food processor and pulse to combine, or rub together with the tips of your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Press firmly into the bottom and sides of a greased pie dish.
- Chill the base while you make the filling.
For the Filling
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Melt the butter in a medium-sized pot, stir in the flour and mix to create a roux.
- Add the cup of milk and asparagus liquid and stir with a wire whisk until all lumps have dissolved.
- Cook over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Remove from the heat and add the asparagus, egg and ½ c of grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the filling onto the base, top with a mixture of cheese and breadcrumbs and sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper or paprika to taste.
- Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden and the filling bubbly. Cool down for 20 minutes before serving.
- In the e-mail my mother-in-law sent me years ago with this recipe, she wrote a note saying there seems to be less asparagus in the tins nowadays. I can confirm that this is in fact the case, as I have learnt that adding another tin of asparagus cuts actually just fills up the pie dish nicely. (I had another opened tin of asparagus because I drained the brine off the first one once without reserving it and then had to open a second tin.)