LAST week saw The Weavers Shed close its doors for the very last time in its current incarnation.
Hopefully she’ll re-emerge like a butterfly from a chrysalis, and continue to provide food and drink in some form or other for the good people of Yorkshire for many years to come.
We had a marvellous farewell dinner on the final night, with friends and regular customers coming to wish the old girl well and send her on her way in the correct way – with plenty of good food and perhaps a little too much wine.
It was with a heavy heart that we closed the door after the last guests had left in the wee small hours.
It felt, and still feels, very strange not to be at the stoves, prepping and cooking. Tracy and I are currently on the look out for premises for our new venture, and recovering from moving house, a traumatic experience for anyone!
So, as I sit amid teetering boxes of files, unrecognisable electrical cables and newspaper-wrapped glassware, I need to think of something to cook this week. And, as I like to do on such occasions, I go ultra-seasonal and see what nature has on offer right now.
Fortunately, spring is in full bloom, and two of the major ingredients in the absolute peak of their seasons just happen to combine brilliantly; fresh English asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes.
The unmistakable flavour of asparagus marries wonderfully with the rich, buttery flavour of a good Jersey spud, whether it’s in a soup, or a warm mixed salad – just toss some hot sliced potatoes and crunchy asparagus stems in a little mayonnaise and lemon juice, then season well and you have a brilliant accompaniment to all manner of dishes.
A grilled fillet of fish, perhaps, or a nice crisp-skinned piece of roast chicken. Simply wonderful, and very easy to accomplish. With these ingredients, it works well when you do less with them.
A simple drizzle of hollandaise sauce or melted butter and you have a dish to truly savour.
I’ve chosen to combine the aromatics of these two seasonal stars with lovely, crumbly butter-rich pastry, some toasted hazelnuts and a rich egg custard to make a simple tart, which can be eaten as a light lunch or supper, especially with a crisp, bitter-leaf salad and perhaps a glass of something chardonnay-esque. Aprons on!
Pastry: 175g plain flour ; 100g cold butter, cut into pieces ; one free-range egg yolk
Filling: 350 g Jersey Royal potatoes; skins intact, boiled and sliced; 250g asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into inch lengths; 1 tbsp toasted chopped hazelnuts; 225ml milk; 225g single cream; 3 medium free-range eggs; 3 medium free-range egg yolks; 15g butter; half a large onion, very finely chopped; salt and pepper.
Baking parchment / 8-inch flan tin
First, let’s make the pastry. In a food processor, or by hand, crumb the butter into the flour, add the egg yolk, and bring the pastry together with enough chilled water to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Chill until needed, then roll out and line a 20cm / 8 inch flan tin. I like to leave plenty of excess pastry at the edges, and trim this off when the whole tart’s cooked. It makes for a neater result, and you can get plenty of custard in that way.
Heat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6. Bake the pastry blind until golden and allow to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C / 300F / Gas 2.
Heat the butter in a pan and gently cook the onion until soft and golden. Spread evenly around the pastry case. Layer the potatoes around in concentric circles, and top with the chopped asparagus.
Whisk the eggs, yolks, cream and milk to a smooth custard, season well, and pour into the tart. I find that it’s easier to pop the tart case onto a baking tray and fill it from a jug ‘in place’ on the shelf in the oven.
Saves having to gingerly cross the kitchen with a leaky shell full of custard!
Try and get the custard as high up the tart as possible. Sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts, then bake until just set and wobbly.
Serve immediately or chill until required.