( SERVES 8 )
Photo by Annabel Langbein Media
Be sure to consume asparagus before the tips start to open, as once this happens a substance called lignin is produced, making the bottom part of the stalk tougher. This is the plant's way of preparing the stalks to bear the weight of the ferns that the stems turn into as they mature.
To trim asparagus, snap off the tough bottom end of the stalk at the point at which it becomes tender.
|4 sheets||Puff pastry|
|1||Egg, lightly beaten|
|1 cup||Mascarpone, or cream cheese|
|1 cup||Parmesan cheese, finely grated|
|1||Lemon, finely grated zest only|
|2 Tbsp||Basil leaves, chopped|
- Preheat oven to 200C fanbake and cut baking paper to fit 2 oven trays. Place trays in oven to heat (baking tarts on preheated trays helps to crisp the bases) and place baking paper on bench. Brush one sheet of pastry with beaten egg, place a second sheet of pastry on top, then cut into 4 squares. Repeat with remaining 2 sheets of pastry, reserving a little egg for glazing. Place 4 pastry squares on each sheet of baking paper and score the top sheet of each pastry square with a sharp knife to form a 1cm border. Glaze border with a little egg.
- Mix any leftover egg with the mascarpone or cream cheese, parmesan, lemon zest, basil, salt and pepper. Divide evenly between the pastry squares, spreading out within the border and taking care not to go over the edges or the pastry rim won't rise properly. Slide baking paper and pastries on to preheated trays and bake until puffed and golden (about 20 minutes). The bases can be made in advance to this stage and frozen or kept in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Reheat for 5 minutes in a 180C oven before adding the topping.
- To make the topping, boil asparagus for 2 minutes then drain, angle slice and toss with lemon oil, salt and pepper. Divide between the warm pastry bases and serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with mint leaves and lemon wedges.
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