I have a thing for savoury tarts; to me they represent comfort food at its best, and conjure up a lot of happy childhood memories. I remember being at my grandmother’s and helping her prepare Quiche Lorraine. I would watch it take on a golden colour through the oven glass, the minutes ticking by very slowly, the smell gradually amplifying until it filled the kitchen; the excitement was almost untenable.
And if my mother announced that she was making a Salmon Tourte, or, delight of delights, Onion Tart for dinner, I would litterally be the happiest little girl on the planet. The mere thought of biting into the buttery, crumbly pastry, and tasting the flavourful fillings had me skipping about excitedly. When, after what felt like hours, the tart finally came out of the oven, and I received my slice, I would invariably burn my mouth in my juvenile haste. And it was worth it every time.
I am now older, and a little bit wiser, and if I still burn my mouth from time to time, I have stopped skipping about. Well, most of the time anyway.
But there is another reason why I love savoury tarts: there is almost no limit to the amount of recipes you can come up with. This one here isn’t a recipe from my childhood: green asparagus isn’t very common in France, and its white cousin doen’t really lend itself to this sort of dish. I came up with it quite simply because I like the combination of asparagus and smoked salmon, and they were both on special offer.
This tart is unbelievably easy to make, and it doubles up as a stunning centerpiece. Have it on its own as a starter, or serve alongside a salad or buttered greens for a main meal. Go easy on the salt in the egg and cream mix, as the smoked salmon is already rather salty. If you are watching your fat intake, half-fat cream works fine here.
You will need:
For the pastry:
300 g plain flour
150 g butter
For the filling:
1 bunch green asparagus
3 slices smoked salmon
200 ml double cream
200 ml crème fraîche
Make the pastry. In a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and the butter to the flour. Work the flour into the butter between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to bind, knead briefly then form into a ball (you can of course use a food processor instead if you prefer). Wrap in cling film then chill for 20 min.
Preheat the oven to 200C/ fan 180C/ gas 6.
Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm, loose-bottom, fluted tart tin (re-form any leftover pastry into a ball and freeze for another time). Chill again for 10 min, then line with foil, add baking beans, and bake blind for 15 min. Remove the foil and beans, and return to the oven for 5 min. Reserve.
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, and cook in salted boiling water for about 5 min until tender enough to eat, but not too soft. Drain and reserve.
Cut the smoked salmon into small pieces and distribute evenly over the pastry case.
Top with the asparagus, arranging them on the tart like the spokes of a wheel.
In a large jug, lightly beat the eggs, add the double cream and crème fraîche and mix well. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Pour the egg and cream mix delicately over the pastry case. Bake for about 20 min, or until golden all over and just set.