Recipe: Asparagus, Red Onion & Blue Cheese Tart. A taste of early Spring at The Church, Letterkenny.
All around The Church and across the Rockhill House Estate, Spring flowers are bursting into full colour. The first growth of the grass around our pond and on the bamboo and ornamental grasses by our door are bringing a new freshness to the view from our terrace and the hillside is filled with the sounds of young lambs calling back to their mothers as they explore the world.
It is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings - something you will see reflected in our Spring menu over the coming weeks (join our mailing list to be the first to know!).
But, it is also an uncertain time of year.
The weather can quickly turn and the first vegetables and crops of the season can be delayed.
Knowing what to cook when the growth of some fresh local ingredients may be early while others are late can be daunting, even for experienced chefs. So what can give us that first taste of Spring but also give us a cosy sense of place if the weather takes a turn? That was the challenge our chefs took up this week - and, as usual, they got it just right.
First of the season asparagus, red onion and cheese tart at The Church, Letterkenny with Spring flowers and grated cheese for decoration.
"Spring Flowers bring sunshine everyday whatever the weather so what about a big sunny dish...something with cheese...oh and the first asparagus of the season!"
That was the inspiration for this week's recipe.
With the news from our local fruit and veg supplier that they had a great first crop of asparagus in stock, Head Chef Thomas and Chef Wendy's minds raced with possibilities.
The arrival of asparagus is one of the first signs the new season of produce has begun and it incredibly versatile - used in risottos, tarts, lightly cooked and drizzled with herb lemon herb butter and served with a baked egg or just dipped in alioli. So with asparagus now available locally and cheese always a favourite at The Church, it was clear starting point for our talented chefs.
Add some red onion, a homemade pastry base, some time and a bit of flair and you have a dish that will raise smiles to rival a bank of daffodils.
We made a large version but a tarlet version works as well.
We make our pastry from scratch to achieve more softness and crunch, but to keep it simple, you can use ready made.
Don't fancy cooking? The tart will feature as a Spring special this weekend alongside all your regular takeaway favourites from The Church.
Recipe: First asparagus, red onion and cheese tart
What you'll need:
A 24 cm tart ring
Pre-made pastry (homemade works best)
300gm of blue cheese
300ml double cream
3 large eggs, preferably free range
2 red onions, finely sliced
1 bunch of asparagus
A few freshly chopped chives
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Egg wash: 1 egg,1 tsp milk
Preheat the oven to 170ºC (gas mark 4)
Roll the pastry to about 4mm even thickness.
Line the tin with the pastry, making sure the pastry goes right to the edge of the tin. Cover the pastry with parchment paper, then fill with baking beads or uncooked rice.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 170ºC, then remove the parchment and rice/beads
Whisk 1 egg with the tsp of milk and brush the wash over the tart.
Place back in the oven for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and turn up the oven to 190ºC
Finely slice 2 red onions and lightly sweat in a little olive oil until soft.
Blanch 1 bunch of asparagus.
Mix the egg, cream and chopped chives and season to taste.
Pop the sweated onions on to pastry base, carefully pour in the egg-cream-chive mix, lay on the asparagus, and crumble some of the the cheese across the mix.
Bake at 190 degrees for approx 10mins or until set (press with the back of a fork - if it's nearly firm in the centre its ready as it will continue to cook when removed from the oven).
Remove from the oven and top with the remaining blue cheese.
Place in the oven again until the cheese just starts to melt and then remove to cool slightly.
The tart can be enjoyed warm or cold and can be served with a side salad or simply some rocket with a drizzle of olive oil.
That's it for this week on The Church blog.
If you have an idea for a culinary challenge we can set our chefs which uses the best of local produce and reflects our spirit of place , let us know in the comments below.
We are back in our kitchen on the Rockhill House Estate on Friday from 5pm - bringing you all your favourites from The Church to takeaway and enjoy at home with contactless collection or contactless delivery in Letterkenny. Until then, take good care of yourself...and enjoy the first tastes of Spring,
The Church Team