These delightful tartlets contain a combination of melted cheese, lightly sautéed asparagus tips and whole, lightly baked eggs. They are simple to prepare and just need popping into the oven 12-15 minutes before they are served. Vegetarians might like to know that a vegetarian parmesan-style cheese is available from www.bookhamcheese.co.uk
This recipe comes from Delia’s Vegetarian Collection.
For the filling:
7 oz (200 g) asparagus tips
5 oz (150 g) Gruyère cheese, finely grated
6 large eggs
2 oz (50 g) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated (see recipe introduction)
1 dessertspoon olive oil
salt and freshly milled black pepper
For the cheese pastry:
2 oz (50 g) soft butter, at room temperature
4 oz (110 g) plain flour
1½ oz (40 g) strong Cheddar cheese, finely grated
½ level teaspoon mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 beaten egg, for the glaze
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).
You will need six 4 inch (10 cm) quiche tins and a 5½ inch (14 cm) plain cutter or saucer.
First of all make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour, then add the cheese, mustard and cayenne. Mix with just enough cold water to make a smooth dough. Now place the dough in a plastic bag and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Then roll out the pastry as thinly as possible and stamp or cut out 6 rounds. Line the tins with pastry, pushing the pastry into the tins and taking great care not to stretch it – this will stop it shrinking during cooking.
Bake the pastry cases for 15 minutes until lightly cooked. Remove them from the oven and brush the base and sides of each with beaten egg. Return to the oven and cook for 5 more minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling.
Wash the asparagus stalks and cut them into 1 inch (2.5 cm) oblique pieces, heat up the dessertspoon of oil in the frying pan, and gently sauté them for 5 minutes, keeping them on the move so that they don't burn.
Now divide the grated Gruyère cheese between the tartlet cases, spreading it out over the base and then place the asparagus pieces around the edge of each one, keeping the tips turned up to make a nice pattern on the top.
Next break an egg into a saucer or small bowl, then slip it into the centre of each tartlet. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the tops with Parmigiano Reggiano and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs cooked, but the white should be all set and the yolk still soft and creamy.
Serve immediately because if they wait around the eggs will go on cooking.