Asparagus tart with sauce mousseline

Serves 4
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This tart makes a good starter or a light lunch snack with a salad. You could even take it on a picnic. If you want to be really adventurous you could lay alternate white and green spears of asparagus on the tart.

1kg medium asparagus
500g puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
30g freshly grated Parmesan
50g butter
Sauce mousseline to serve

Roll the puff pastry to 1/3cm thick, leave it to rest for 15 minutes then cut 4 rectangles, 14cm x 11cm. Prick them all over with a fork to prevent the pastry rising too much, then put them on a baking tray. From the rest of the pastry cut 1cm-wide strips as long as you can. Brush the edges of the rectangles with egg. Lay the strips along all four sides, and trim them to form a ridge all the way round. Mark these edges by pressing half-moons all over them with the blade of a knife or use a special pastry crimper. Then brush the edges with beaten egg. Leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

While the pastry is resting cut the woody stalk from the asparagus and discard, then trim to 10cm from the tip and reserve the rest. Bring 2 pans of salted water to the boil, cook the tips for 3-4 minutes until tender then drain and refresh in cold water to stop them discolouring. Cook the trimmings for about 7-8 minutes until soft and then drain and coarsely blend in a liquidiser or food processor with the Parmesan and butter. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/320°F/gas mark 3. Bake the pastry for 7 minutes and remove from the oven. Turn up the oven to 200°C/390°F/gas mark 6.

Spread about a tablespoon of the asparagus purée in the middle of each tart. Don't put too much in; save what's left as a dip or sauce. Then lay the asparagus tips, as close together as you can, on the purée. Cut and butter some pieces of tin foil just large enough to cover the asparagus but not the edges of the pastry. Season the asparagus with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lay the foil on top buttered-side down. Bake the tarts for 15 minutes and serve immediately with sauce mousseline spooned over or served separately.

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