It’s a sad fact that returning from a trip abroad is always a bit of a downer – the mundanity of unpacking, washing your smalls and returning to the daily grind, not to mention the unpredictable English weather. But when your suitcase is full of enticing things to eat, it certainly makes easing back into real life a lot more pleasant.
I’ve just returned from a press trip to Tuscany at the invitation of EAT (European Art of Taste), an umbrella organisation dedicated to the promotion of denomination-controlled Tuscan food and drink, specifically cheeses, cured meats, Chianti Classico wines and Chianti olive oils.
I’ll return to this in a later post as I thought the lovely medieval city of Siena was the perfect base for a long foodie weekend and I’d like to share some of my experiences, including visiting Pecorino and prosciutto manufacturers, a wine and olive oil producer and a local cookery school. Watch this space.
But back to today’s recipe. I was given some hefty wedges of Pecorino Toscano (less aggressive than Pecorino Romano) by Caseificio Sociale Manciano, both a young cheese and a more mature one. While you can eat these as table cheeses, they are equally good as cooks’ ingredients and as I came home to a garden full of asparagus (and the chives needed a haircut), I brought them all together in this easy-to-make tart.
I used ready-made puff pastry. A block is better for this recipe than a pre-rolled sheet, and home-made rough-puff would be even better, but I’m all for an easy life.
I thought of adding some ripped prosciutto to the top, but it really doesn’t need it, as the flavours of cheese and asparagus speak for themselves. I like it best still warm.
Asparagus and Pecorino Tart
350g puff pastry, preferably all-butter
50g of aged Pecorino Toscano, roughly grated
25g Parmesan, finely grated
100g creme fraiche
3 heaped tbsp chives, snipped finely
About 200g asparagus, woody ends snapped off
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little olive oil
Beaten egg, to glaze
Roll the pastry into a circle about 28cm in diameter and mark a ring about 3cm in from the edge. Prick the central section with a fork, put the pastry on a sheet of baking paper and chill, flat, for at least half an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 and put in a baking sheet to heat up. Mix the grated cheeses, creme fraiche and chives in a bowl to a stiff paste, adding a good grind of black pepper. Spread over the centre section of the pastry. Top with neat rows of asparagus, brush the spears with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Fold the pastry border up and over the filling, pleating it as you go. Brush the rim with beaten egg, and slide the tart, still on its paper, onto the pre-heated baking sheet. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing and eating. We enjoyed it with a couple of salads, one green and crisp and another of tomato and basil.