I'm not a big watcher of food programmes on TV. I'm not sure why this is - I suppose a contributing factor is having Not Had A Telly for the past year at uni, but I was baking last night when Nigella Express came on BBC2, and I definitely wasn't a fan ... if by 'not a fan' you mean 'kind of wanted to give her a good shake', which I do. It was a bit of a crushing blow, considering I love all of her recipes and the way she writes - maybe I just don't like seeing people for real? Maybe it's a little too close to actual human contact for comfort? Maybe I should be locked up; but let's move on.
I was as surprised as anyone to find myself really enjoying Jamie At Home, then - you know; Jamie Oliver grows courgettes and potatoes and things, pours copious amounts of olive oil over everything, gets nice and grubby, and then serves an amazingly fresh, simple dish at the end of it. I'm good at maybe two of those things (read: consuming olive oil and getting dirty fingernails) so I feel a bit of an affinity for him.
However, Jamie At Home was something I could only watch on internet catch-up while I was at uni, which meant more often than not I'd be watching Jamie grilling seafood and tossing it with chopped red chilli and lemon juice on a bed of courgette ribbons, while I'd be sat at my desk eating cuppasoup, or - at best - 'insert food item here' on toast. (Under such depressing circumstances, you can see why I wasn't blogging.)
To come home and be allowed all the chopped red chilli and lemon juice I could get my hands on was a revelation (specifically; not to eat red chilli and lemon juice on their own), but it was this asparagus & potato tart that was the biggest success with my family; something I'd seen Jamie make on the programme weeks before that had made me sigh dramatically -'WILL I EVER SEE ASPARAGUS AGAIN?', type thing.
The fun irony of this story is that, since I made this, asparagus season has kind of ended.
I could say I'm doing this to you because I care, but that would be a lie. I'm doing this to you because I want you to feel my pain.
And also because this tart is delicious.
And also because I'm well brought up and am going to give you other options to use this base for. As long as you tell my mum what a nice girl I am.
Asparagus & Potato Tart
Adapted from Jamie At Home
Jamie's version of this used filo pastry and double cream, but since it's the eggs that set tarts like this, I used milk as it's what we had in. Obviously both work, but cream is richer if you're serving this for a particular occassion. I also used a fair bit less butter and cheese than he suggested; not consciously, just because I didn't feel we needed quite so much - use your own judgement.
British asparagus season is shorter than my tolerance for most TV chefs, but it's the mashed potato base of this that's so different, and almost anything could replace the aspargus. My little sister's optimistic suggestion (I don't know why I even asked) was 'SAUSAGES': I rolled my eyes, but on reflection a 'bangers & mash' tart is quite a cute idea.
500g (1lb 2oz) potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
500g asparagus spears, woody ends removed
about 400g (8oz) shortcrust pastry (or 2oog filo, Jamie's way, but he uses an extra ton of butter for this)
100g (3oz) freshly grated Lancashire cheese
100g (3 oz) freshly grated Cheddar cheese
3 large eggs
1 x 284ml pot (1 1/4c.) double cream (I used milk)
1/4 of a nutmeg
a good blob of melted butter
1. Put the potatoes in a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 mins. Meanwhile blanch the asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 mins, and drain in a colander.
2. Preheat oven to 190C (375F) and prepare an ovenproof dish (Jamie helpfully says, 'I've used many different shapes and sizes' - men. I think a 9x13" halfroaster would be the perfect size; I made one 8x11" tart and one individual one with this quantity). Roll out shortcrust pastry into a large rectangle on a floured surface and line your tart dish with it.
-- Have you ever used the trick of rolling out pastry between floured sheets of clingfilm (plastic wrap)? I would explain further, but that's basically all there is to it. I did it for the first time making this tart, and it's changed my life, to exaggerate but a little. Yet I digress --
Prick the bottom of your pastry case a few times with a fork, and if your life is empty and you don't have an Aga, cover it with a layer of baking parchment and parbake it for five minutes or so.
3. When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream/milk and stir into the cheesy mashed potato. Grate in the nutmeg, season well with pepper (seasoning is key in this tart) and mixed together. Spread the mash over the pastry, then take the blanched asparagus and line it up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the melted butter and put in the oven for about 20 mins, or until golden. Allow to rest 10 mins before serving alongside some fresh salad.