asparagus and cheese tarts

jars

It’s Monday night, blackened quiet, a few hours away from the pale dawn of Tuesday. I’m sitting on the couch, right hand nursing a glass of wine as my left taps on plastic keys.

The wine seemed like a good idea three hours ago because… well, I like wine. But as sleep envelops my senses, I’m starting to regret the decision. This blog has been long-neglected since I returned from Europe, buried under work and fatigue. So, as I’ve found a quiet evening, I’m determined to pump out a post before my brain retires. Hear that, red wine? Good.

asparagus

buttercheese

A few nights ago, Aaron and I picnicked at King’s Park with two of our very best friends. As night slowly swallowed the blush of day, we spread blankets upon dewy grass and ate smooth cultured butter upon chewy sourdough.

Glasses were clinked and stories were swapped beneath plaid woollen blankets. Our feet grew cold and our hearts warmed as we feasted on fresh mango, olive and zucchini salad, beef meatballs with nectarine chutney, soft cheese, asparagus tarts and cured salami.

Oh, it was good.

mix

By late evening, we were laughing into empty plates as brown ducks battled over the leftovers. My half-eaten asparagus tarts (the product of a glut of new-season asparagus at the market) were swiftly packed away from prying beaks and feet.

By 10:00pm, the canopy of cloud started weeping on the darkened landscape. We shuffled towards the car, lugging baskets, lanterns and blankets, packing them away before officially calling the night’s end.

pans

These asparagus and cheese tarts are still a bit of work in progress. The first taste-testers proclaimed them to be a ‘cross between sweet and savoury’ due to the creamy mascarpone and lemon zest.

Despite liking the original tarts, I’ve amped up the flavour in the recipe below with extra cheese and peppery Dijon mustard. The finished product is a shallow, pale-golden savoury tart with streaks of crunchy asparagus, fragrant lemon zest, salty cheese and soft egg custard. The crisp cheese pastry adds both flavour and transportability. Chipotle sauce is optional (unless you’re, me, of course).

thyme

side

These little tarts are begging to be brought to your next barbecue or family gathering. Their cheesy asparagus flavour is perfect for what’s left of the Australian Spring asparagus season*.

Get amongst it.

*Northern Hemisphere friends, don’t let winter stop you. Thin batons of raw zucchini, halved cherry tomatoes or bits of finely diced broccoli would be a perfect substitute for asparagus during the off-season.

presented

Asparagus and Cheese Tarts

Makes eight 12cm diameter x 2cm height tarts

Pastry:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 40g wholemeal spelt flour (or just add another 40g plain flour)
  • 85g butter
  • 85g cheese (mixture of cheddar and Parmesan)

Filling:

  • 6 free-range eggs
  • 100g cheese (cheddar and/or Parmesan)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp freshly grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
  • 2 bunches (400g) fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and halved (do NOT use canned asparagus. Substitute raw zucchini batons or halved cherry tomatoes if desired)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 50g blue cheese, crumbled (such as Roquefort or Stilton, optional)

For the pastry: Butter eight loose-bottomed tart tins, place onto a sturdy oven tray and set aside in a cool place (put them in the refrigerator if your apartment or house is hot). Put the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the flour and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the grated cheese and mix. Add 3 tbsp cold water and mix until the pastry forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 5 minutes whilst you prepare your filling.

pastry pastry2

When pastry is sufficiently chilled, roll it into a log and cut it into eight even portions.

pastrycutPress one portion into a rough circle and flatten using the ball of your hand. Carefully lay it into a buttered tart case. Press to fit with your fingers (don’t worry if the pastry seems very thin, it’s supposed to be like that). Line each case with baking paper and baking beads. Blind bake at 180 degrees C (360 degrees f) for 10 minutes or until light golden.

For the filling: whilst the cases are blind baking, combine eggs, herbs, cheese, lemon zest, salt and pepper, Dijon mustard and mascarpone into a large bowl. Whisk together well.

Wash, trim and halve your asparagus spears. After removing the tart cases from oven, gently distribute the egg mix between the cases, then top with sliced asparagus, salt and pepper. Dot with crumbled blue cheese (optional).

baked

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until egg mix is set (do not allow to brown). Enjoy warm or cold with chutney, bread and/or some dressed rocket leaves.

aerial

 

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106 responses

  1. I don’t make tarts nearly enough. Their shape is so gorgeous, don’t you agree? At least your tarts are gorgeous! Lovely flavors, too — thanks for this.

  2. Laura, what a great recipe!! Your picnic sounds like it was so much fun. . times like that with friends is always needed and great. I love savory tarts so can’t wait to try this one. . and I love asparagus .. I don’t think I have ever seen canned asparagus?! I didn’t know there was such a thing! :) Welcome back and the blog will always be here. . and so will we. . so no worries!! :)

    • It’s not a bad thing if you haven’t seen canned asparagus Alice! It’s sold canned or jarred over here, the spears end up being pretty mooshy and greyish green. Definitely not preferable in tarts like this! Thanks for the lovely message, love being blogging friends with you! xx

  3. Those little puppies are damn hot… Just like late night/early morning writing sessions. I like your determination!
    I also like your special notes for our northern hemisphere friends. I think I shall steal that idea in a vain attempt to improve my ratings :).
    Just one more thing Laura, do we need to talk about the nail polish situation again?? ;)

  4. We’ve been cleaning the markets stalls of their asparagus lately, we’ve been eating so much of it. I love it in a creamy, eggy tart with a cheesy crust. I’m not a picnic lover, but I am a tart lover. I can eat tarts on a blanket on the living room floor and turn it into a party. It’s a gift.

    • It’s gorgeous at the moment isn’t it Jen, I want to buy ALL of it so that I won’t run out in the next couple of weeks. As for picnics in the living room, yes!!! Aaron and I did that for our anniversary. Loved it, much tidier with no mosquitoes! xx

    • Hello lovely! Thanks so much for the kind words. I love writing, it’s probably one of my favourite things to do when I’m home for a day on my own (other than cooking). I’m going to eat as much asparagus as possible before the season runs out ;) xx

  5. These tarts look delicious and perfect for this time of year. I’ve been buying up the yummy fresh asparagus that is in abundance at the moment and using it in salads, pastas etc and will be giving this yummy recipe a try. It’s a perfect time of year for picnics in Kings Park :)

    • It’s such a versatile vegetable isn’t it! I’m loving it raw at the moment… I’ll be sad when it runs out! Thanks for stopping over, always nice to meet another local blogger!

  6. Welcome back! I’m missed your reading material with my morning coffee/afternoon beer. These tarts look pretty spectacular and I volunteer my services for any more taste testing. :)

    • Haha, and vice versa. We should definitely embrace this warmer weather and have our Mexican cook up soon. With beer and possibly some puppy training? I am dying to see your new fandangled kitchen ;)

  7. These little tarts look delicious Laura, especially with the little bit of lemon zest in there. Glad you’re finding some time again – it can sometimes be a struggle to find it amongst the competing demands of a busy life, I find! xo

    • Aw, thanks Sam. Yes, I completely agree – it’s so difficult to balance completing demands at times. I do love sitting down with my computer and putting thoughts into words though. It’s therapeutic xo

  8. You paint such beautiful pictures. If words were edible I know whose blog I’d stop at for lunch :) (yours. I mean yours. You got that, right?)
    But then your photos are amazing too.
    And your recipe. Argh! Asparagus tartlets with creamy mascarpone and lemony zest and blue cheese too? Wowy wow wow.
    I’d love to be picnicking until 10pm with ducks for company (ie. the wildfowl. “Ducks” isn’t some cutesy name I’ve already got for your friends. We’re not quite at that stage yet.) and eating these delicious goodies.
    x

    • Oh Trix, I wish you were here! We’ll be having heaps more picnics as we kick into Summertime and Aaron and I now have our own little dog (you’ll be seeing him in my next post!) who would get on beautifully with Clemmie! I do hope that you’re staying warm over there. Hugs xxxx

  9. Wow Laura, I can almost smell them! Your photographs are gorgeous and the recipe is definitely I must make. I love little tarts like this. Great to see your post this morning. I love the little puppy! :)

  10. Cannot even begin to tell you how thrilled I am that’s it’s still (admittedly waning) asparagus season, with lovely local asparagus (not imported from Peru!!) everywhere. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use it. Seriously Laura those little tarts look gorgeous – perfect Festive Season nibbles.
    PS. Nice blue plate!

    • Yes, nothing better than fresh Aussie asparagus at this time of year Sas! So yum. The blue plate is a Johnson Bros plate, I bought a set when I first moved out of home. They’re my favourites, such durable stoneware. Thanks for the lovely note xxxx

  11. Beautiful, Laura. Just beautiful. Homemade pastry & tarts make me so happy. I so know what you mean re the wine. It always seems like such a nice idea, and one glass is. Two or three… well, I kind of prefer my sleep more. But I gotta remember that. x

    • Yes, I’m exactly the same Heidi, I adore a glass of wine but I have to pick my moments! Thanks for the lovely note. There’s definitely something therapeutic about making and eating pastry xx

  12. Well, this is a yummy comeback worth waiting for! :) Blogging is not for the faint of heart and you put a lot of heart and soul and hard work into yours and so it’s OK to take a break here and again. Your loyal readers will miss you but will never go away!

    • You’re lovely Azita, thank you for the encouragement! I definitely put a lot of effort into what I do, I just wish I had more time (but then again, doesn’t everyone say that!). Sending you hugs, I appreciate being blogging friends with you xo

  13. Great to have you back, Laura! And these tarts were perfect for re-entry! Thanks for the Northern Hemisphere shout out! I think broccolini might be perfect for these!

  14. I have just finished dinner. It would be a good idea if you could pass me that last plate of asparagus and cheese tart. It looks like it was waiting for me. I love the look and the addition of peppery arugula on top. What a brilliant idea. Have a lovely week!

  15. Oh I love playing with pastry in the kitchen. I make a right mess which is unusual for me as I am a borderline OCD neat freak. I feel like I’m getting in touch with my disorganised side! Everyone needs a break every now and then to remain fresh and keep the passion alive. Your writing never seems to suffer under the strain though, you have such a fabulous way of drawing one in with words….

    • Aw, thanks so much Martine. I appreciate you. It’s a lot of fun to write, it’s my form of escapism (as is the food!). I definitely agree that a bit of mess is part of the fun with pastry. I love the fact that flour blooms into little clouds everywhere ;) Not as fun to clean up, but hey… :) xxx

  16. Lucky you that it is the beginning of asparagus season there! I’m visiting family in MN for Thanksgiivng and it was 0 deg F (about -16C) here in the morning :-/ I love these little tarts for appetizers, but they often don’t look very exciting since the filling envelopes whatever veg. you use. I love your touch with the rocket leaves – so pretty and fresh looking!

    • Oh my gosh, that is so cold!!! I’ve never experienced a chill like that, living in the Southern hemisphere our winters are very mild in comparison! Thanks for the lovely words. And yes, rocket makes everything prettier (well, maybe not ice cream but you know what I mean!) xx

  17. “As night slowly swallowed the blush of day…” <–I hope Aaron realizes and appreciates what a magnificent poet he's with! You have such a beautiful way with words, lady, and I'm so glad you convinced your brain to pump this out for us! Sounds like such a gorgeous/tranquil/fun scene and I'm drooling over these delicious tarts. Anything with cheese + pie crust = sign me up! Gorgeous photos as always!! <3

    • Aw, thanks so much Erika! Haha… my brain definitely pumps out words better than most other things (not always saying that the words make sense, but hey!). And yes, cheese = winner in my book. It goes well in so many things. Sending you hugs xx

  18. I can’t wait for asparagus season here! Though if you didn’t care about seasons, you could still go and buy some at the shops (pretty ridiculous if you ask me) These are so cute and so delicious! Last year I made a tart with fresh, local asparagus and seeing your post makes me remember how good it was!
    I love the mascarpone cheese in these ones and I love the individual tarts. I love tarts.
    Nice to have you back. I’m sure you’re feeling blah still, it takes time to get back to this. It’s taking me awhile too and I didn’t go half way around the world! Life takes over sometimes and inspiration dries up. At least in my case it does, seems like you have no problems!!
    See you around, Laura!

    Nazneen xx

    • Thanks so much Nazneen. Yes, it’s definitely taking a while to get back into the swing of things. I’m enjoying the sunshine here though, despite missing the twinkling winter Christmas decorations in the northern hemisphere! Thanks for the lovely sentiment and your friendship as always – haha, the funny thing is that I ended up making individual tarts as I couldn’t find my rectangular tart tin. I think I loaned it to a friend and it’s gone AWOL! Take care lovely xxx

    • Aw, I need to get started on converting recipes for different countries. I end up just doing metric as it’s natural to me (there are some reeeeally good online converters though, I use them for US recipes!). We need to have a cooking session one day. Ah, one day! xx

  19. So delicious-looking, Laura, yum! And I’m not even a fan of asparagus =) I loved your imagery of your time picnicking — your writing is so evocative, I so enjoy reading it. Hope all is well, Laura, happy holidays! Talk soon xoxo

  20. What a wonderful evening…especially as our nights are in the single digits with snow on the ground. I can just imagine how lovely it was sitting on a blanket and feasting on your delicious repast. What at wonderful evening!

    • Oh Karen, stay warm if you can! It’s so weird sitting here (on the third day of Summer) and thinking about everyone in the northern hemisphere shoveling ice and snow! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post though. Take care and have a beautiful December! xx

  21. We all just experienced your evening picnic- wonderful writing and great photos as usual. I’m always on for savory tarts- almost more than sweet ones lately. And asparagus- always a winner. I splurged on a pound of it the other day- not quite in season here… but worth it. I’m looking for the new pooch. I’m sure we will see him in the near future. That last little guy, mooch was it? so darling. x wendy

    • Aw, thanks Wendy. I’m also much more for savouries these days, the sweet tooth that I had as a child has well and truly changed for the better! Our little dog’s name is Loki. Mooch is our friend’s puppy who we’ve been regularly puppy sitting (being with him helped to confirm our decision to get a little pup) but they’re both equally adorable. I’ve always loved dogs so it’s quite exciting to have our own now! You’ll see photos soon (there are a couple on Instagram already) xx

  22. Well, doesn’t this look fabulous! I am loving the description of your picnic feast… what a lovely way to spend time with friends (oh, lucky you it’s summer!). Wouldn’t this be great for brunch too? Great photographs.

    Although I enjoyed following your journey throughout Europe, I’m so happy your back Laura. xoxo

    • Aw, thanks so much Em! I appreciate you heaps and I am grateful for the fact that you followed me along during my seriously sporadic holiday blogging :) Sending you hugs and hoping you’re having a gorgeous December with the family xxx

  23. Delicious! These sound wonderful! I love your introduction and I understand lacking the motivation but persevering anyway! Since I have been in Europe I have been slacking non stop and I am surprised at how little posts I have developed while here even though I have plenty to write about! I guess I need to stay up late with a glass of wine and fight the fight ;)

    • Thanks heaps Lilly Sue – I’m catching up on some of your holiday posts now and they’re amazing! You’ve done such a great job of documenting your journey. It’s difficult writing when tired too but I just thought that I had procrastinated enough – I’m glad I got it done eventually! xx

      • Thank you Laura! I feel I have been doing a horrible job keeping up but at least I am getting some of them posted :) I think it will be a while until they are all done!

  24. I love wine, too! I can so relate to your intro. This tart looks and sounds so fabulous, Laura! Now I’m craving asparagus and it’s months away. :)

  25. Jerry would love these! I do hope that things are settling down into some sort of routine for you. It’s getting colder here and dark so early in the evening, that having something like this would be like a tiny piece of spring. Speaking of spring coming, did you read Stephie’s sweet potato biscuit post? If not, you need to check it out pronto. ;) Hope you have a good, relaxing weekend. xx

    • Thanks so much Julie, things are definitely improving in terms of the change of hemispheres and general fatigue. I am loving the warm weather. And no, I haven’t read Stephies potato biscuit post!!! I will head over there now. Sending you hugs, stay warm and have a beautiful December! xxx

  26. I have a serios love for cheese at the moment and I especially love that tiny extra bit, in those crisp little crusts! I’ve no doubt that your followers and blogging friends totally get that real life catches up with us all too frequently. The main thing is not to beat yoursf up about it, embrace the good days (and not do productive ones) and just enjoy it when you go!!! I will always come back for more tasty food ;)

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