Asparagus tart in polenta shell

Adapted from the Guardian”s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, this tart is great fun to make, but requires considerable caution. First, the polenta – watch when you cook it – start with a bit of dry polenta, slowly add more, but assume you will end up with too much rather than too little – corn meal, like cream of wheat, tend to grow in the pot endlessly..

You can also make it from any leftover cooked polenta. When using already cooked polenta choose another mature hard cheese instead of the parmesan (it should mix in easier?).

When you already have the polenta mixed with cheese and chives, make sure you fit it into the tart tin THINLY – it will expand while baking, and the object it to achieve a thin polenta shell, not a polenta cake.  On the other hand the shell you construct must be carefully sealed, so that the filling does not flow out of it before it is solidified while baking..  ouch, tsk, tsk.. carefully patch all the crakcs..

Serves six (served with some tossed salad etc,)

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 300g fine or instant polenta
  • 80g finely grated parmesan
  • 100g gruyère, grated
  • 4 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 300g thin asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 240ml double cream
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook the polenta, When in doubt, follow the instructions on the packet.
  2. Set the oven to 190C/375F.
  3. Take a 25cm tart tin with a removable base and grease with olive oil. I  would prefer to use flat-side tart pan rather than a scalloped one – if you have one of those at your disposal.. not many of us do.  My scalloped one does not allow for an easy removal of the pan – even when the bottom is trying to push out..
  4. Drop the parmesan into the palenta and stir for five minutes more.
  5. Stir in the chives and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
  6. Spoon the polenta into the tart tin.
  7. Spread it evenly over the bottom and up the sides to a thickness of about 4mm (keep back a tablespoon or two, to mend any cracks that appear after cooking).
  8. Bake until dry and crisp around the edges, about 30 minutes.
  9. If there are any cracks in the tart shell, fill with the reserved polenta.

For the filling:

  1. Lightly steam the asparagus for three minutes and lay in the polenta case.
  2. Whisk the eggs, cream and mustard, and season well.
  3. Pour over asparagus, sprinkle on the gruyère.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and just set.
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