Saturday, June 13, 2009

Asparagus and Potato Tart

Look at what my precious son brought me. He was so excited.

Other than accepting this beautiful flower from my son, the best part of being sick this week was receiving my new Jamie Oliver cookbook in the mail and laying in bed reading it. I remember watching him on TV years ago when the Food Network was just getting started. I've always admired his energy, creativity, and zest for life. He is one of a kind, no doubt about it. But until recently I hadn't thought much about his cookbooks. I had been hearing how great Jamie at Home is and decided to splurge on a copy, shipped from Amazon UK. It's not that the book is that expensive, but anything is a splurge when you're unemployed.

I'm only about a third of the way through it, and I've been impressed with the beauty and simplicity of the recipes. The book's chapters are divided into the four seasons and each season is broken up into sub-chapters. Right now I'm focused on the asparagus section in spring. There's a recipe I'm dying to try because it looks so darn delicious and fun: crispy pancetta wrapped asparagus that you dip in soft boiled eggs. In the book Jamie presents the topless soft boiled eggs in a purple supermarket egg carton. The bright green asparagus, deep yellow and white eggs, and the purple carton, well, the colors make for an extraordinary photo. I can't decide whether to make it now for my family of three (not exactly toddler food except for the hands-on part) or wait to serve it for breakfast or brunch with friends.

Tonight I adapted Jamie's recipe for Crispy and Delicious Asparagus and Potato Tart. I had hoped to follow it to the letter, but I only had two sheets of phyllo dough in my fridge (Jamie refers to it as filo and his recipe calls for 5) and I lacked one of the two cheeses it called for. Quick aside: if you are new to this blog, I'll just tell you that locating phyllo dough in Denmark is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. I'm not joking. I can't find it anywhere in our town and the last time I bought some was in Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city and well over an hour's drive from here. I bought two packages but I should have bought at least twice that. At least I know for next time.

But despite my short supply of phyllo and different cheese, I went for it. I like the fact that Jamie says you can use whatever kind of pan you prefer. I chose a 10" quiche pan. I lined it with one sheet of phyllo (which overlapped the pan) brushed it with melted butter, and repeated with my second sheet. I set that aside and got busy with the filling. To boiled, mashed potatoes, I added two types of cheddar. One a traditional mild yellow and the other white and sharp. Both are imports from Ireland. In another bowl I mixed 3 eggs with 2/3 cup heavy cream. The egg and cream mix got mixed in with the cheesy potato mix and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg was stirred in. I poured this into the phyllo lined tart and then decorated it with blanched asparagus spears.

The presentation is lovely. This is a very good dish but I would do a couple of things differently next time. First, I believe the amount of filling I poured in the pan was too much for the pan size. According to the photo in Jamie's book, the tart should be on the flat side. Mine was at least 1.5" thick, too thick I thought. Also, I would make sure I had the requisite 5 sheets of phyllo because I think it would make more of a crust that the filling needs.
But this is a terrific and easy lunch or dinner and goes great with a pile of greens on the side.

Asparagus and Potato Tart (from Jamie at Home)
500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g asparagus spears, woody ends removed
200g filo pastry
100g butter, melted
100g freshly grated Lancashire cheese
100g freshly grated Cheddar cheese
3 large organic or free-range eggs (Jamie has a whole section in his book about why you don't want to eat traditionally farmed eggs)
1 x284ml pot of double cream (I used a little more than a 1/2c of heavy cream)
1/4 of a nutmeg (would have preferred a whole nutmeg but used ground instead)
In Jamie's words:
Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander.
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Get an ovenproof dish--I've used many different shapes and sizes. Layer the sheets of filo pastry in the dish, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about a 2.5 cm hand over the edge. You want to get the pastry about five layers thick. Put a clean, damp tea towel over the top and put to one side.
When the potatoes are done, mash them with the cheeses. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and cream and stir into your cheesy mashed potato. Grate in the nutmeg, season well with pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. Take your blanched asparagus and line them up across the filling, making sure you cover it all. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter [a step I forgot] and pop into the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve just as you would a quiche for a quick lunch or supper, with a salad.
Serves 4

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