You need just the top half of the spears for these crisp, rich tarts. The lower halves could be eaten in a salad, made into soup, added to a stock or tossed with warm new potatoes in a mixture of mayonnaise and crème fraîche. This recipe is easily doubled. Makes 2.
* 10-12 asparagus tips * 125g puff pastry * 100g crème fraîche * 20g grated Parmesan * 1 egg, lightly beaten * a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley * 1 lemon
Boil or steam the asparagus tips until tender. They will take 5 to 9 minutes depending on the thickness of their stems. They are ready when you can easily slide the point of a knife into the stem. Drain and set aside.
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Cut the puff pastry in half and roll out each piece thinly into a square large enough to cut a disc roughly 14-15cm in diameter. Place the discs of pastry on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cut a narrow rim around each of the pastry discs by scoring the surface with a knife roughly 1.5cm in from the edge. Don’t score so deeply that you cut right through to the baking sheet.
Stir the crème fraîche and grated Parmesan together and grind in a little black pepper. Divide half of the mixture between the centre of each tart. Place the asparagus tips on each one, then spoon the remaining crème fraîche mixture on to each one. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Bake in the preheated oven till the filling is just starting to turn golden brown in patches – about 15-20 minutes.
While the tarts are baking, finely chop the parsley leaves then grate the lemon finely and mix them together. Remove the tarts from the oven when they are ready and scatter over the lemon and parsley.
Serve immediately, while they are still hot and crisp.