This is a very simple tart using what is the last of this year’s allotment asparagus, the rest of some chicken breasts I had gently poached for another dish and some general left-over bits and pieces.
I always have a stash of all-butter puff pastry in the freezer for quick bakes such as these and while I usually prefer to make pastry, this time I used one I had bought: to be honest, as long as it is the all-butter pastry, the results are excellent.
Using bits and bobs!
I used some cream cheese I also had left over, which I mixed with garlic, lemon juice, fresh tarragon and seasoning: this is mixed with the chicken and then spread on the pastry before being topped with onions and asparagus. The cream cheese mixture gives what is essentially an instant thick sauce. The onions, which are gently fried, give a wonderful sweetness to the tart.
The trick with the chicken is not to have over-cooked it, as it will continue to cook on the tart: it can be poached in water or stock for about 5 minutes or so which will partially cook it, ensuring it does not dry out in the oven. I like to cook it sous-vide (at 57C for 45 minutes) before chopping it up and adding it to the tart.
You can add extras to the cheese mixture: chopped chorizo, pine nuts, roasted garlic cloves…..And you can make it completely vegetarian by omitting the chicken.
Accompanying the tart
A fresh salad is all that is needed here. I like a carrot, cucumber and courgette salad, using thin slices of each and a simple vinaigrette. A few fresh herbs (parsley, coriander, chives and chive flowers) pep things up a little more.
The simplest asparagus and chicken tart: makes one large tart
- about 300g all-butter puff pastry
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
- 16 asparagus spears
- 2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced (poached is ideal)
- 150g soft cream cheese or use a mixture of cream cheese & goats cheese
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
- generous spritz of lemon juice
- about a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs: tarragon is terrific, but parsley, thyme or even mint work well here
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- a little vegetable oil for frying the onions
- extra-virgin olive oil to finish
(1) Roll out the pastry to a long, thin rectangle: long enough to line a large swiss roll tin. Trim the edges and with a sharp knife, make a cut about 1cm from each edge of the pastry, going about half way through the pastry: this outer border will rise up a little when the tart bakes, giving a “lip” – almost like a vol-au-vent! You can brush beaten egg around the border carefully, but to be honest you don’t need to here. Chill until needed, or use immediately.
(2) Steam the asparagus for about 3-4 minutes, season with a little salt and freshly milled black pepper and set aside until needed.
(3) Fry the onions in a pan with the oil for about 10 minutes until starting to soften and take on some colour. Set aside until needed.
(4) Mix the goats cheese, lemon, garlic and a little seasoning together. Spread about half of it over the pastry, going up to the cut. Mix the rest with the chicken and stir well to coat the chicken.
(5) Spoon over the onions and lay the asparagus on top either casually or carefully placed.
(6) Bake in an oven preheated to 200C(fan) for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is golden-brown. Drizzle over a little extra-virgin olive oil before serving.