Best of British  

10 June 2016

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THE church calendar may have entered Ordinary Time in May, but it’s an eventful season for produce. The asparagus crop runs from April and certainly into June. This recipe for an Asparagus and Cheddar Tart is a happy marriage of British fla­vours and can straddle all weathers. By all means make your pastry, but the shop stuff is fine.

320g shortcrust pastry sheet
450g (1 lb) asparagus
half a glass of white wine
juice of half a lemon
300ml whipping cream

150ml (5 fl. oz) full-fat milk
4 egg yolks
60g (2 oz) grated cheddar cheese

With the pastry, line a 22cm (9 in.) flan ring or dish. Put it into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus stalks, chop the stalks into thumb-lengths, and boil in salted water for about three minutes. Drain, and then fry them in butter for a minute or two. Add the wine and stir until it has reduced and steamed off. Turn off the heat; squeeze the juice over.

Heat the, oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6. Bake the pastry blind, for 15 minutes, then remove the beans, parchment, or foil that you used for this, and return to the oven for a further five minutes. Remove, then reduce the heat to 350°F/180°C/Gas 4. Scatter the asparagus pieces over the base of the pastry case. Whisk together the cream, milk, and eggs. Pour this over the aspar­agus, then scatter with the cheese. Cook for about half an hour; it will puff up, set, and colour golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

This year, apparently, we are due a bumper crop of strawberries. Try out this Sussex Strawberry Cream, so named for St Richard of Chi­chester (16 June). As he preached a Crusade, I’ve added an Eastern twist. He was apparently vegetarian.

500ml (18 fl. oz) double cream
150ml (5 fl. oz) milk
4 cardamon pods, crushed
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp orange-flower water
225g (8 oz) strawberries
100g (4 oz) caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
3 egg yolks

Heat the cream and milk in a ­pan with the cardamom pods, bring­­ing just to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for half an hour. Stir in the vanilla essence and orange-flower water. Heat the oven to 275°F/140°C/Gas 1. Hull and wash the strawberries, and chop small. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and cornflour, and beat in the egg yolks. Strain in the cream mixture (leave behind and discard the cardamom), and whisk well.

Leave to settle for about 15 min­utes. Divide the strawberries be­­tween six ramekins, and gently pour the cream mixture over, dividing evenly. Arrange the dishes in a bak­ing tin and pour cold water into it, to come about halfway up the rame­kins to make a bain-marie. Bake for about an hour, or until the cream has set: you want a little quiver in the middle when you move the dish. Leave to cool, then chill for a good five hours or overnight.

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