My fresh Salmon, Asparagus tartlets use my favourite fresh herb has to be dill and my vegetable garden is full of it and I’m always looking for ways to use it (you can search for Marinated Courgette with Dill -another favourite recipe). Fresh herbs make such a fab difference to your cooking and I try to fresh herbs when they are in season. Dried herbs just don’t taste like the real thing and I’d much rather cook something different & seasonal. I know that you can get basil in a supermarket in December but it just isn’t the same. All is not lost however if you can’t do this, some fresh herbs freeze very well including dill (hoorah), parsley and coriander. Just chop them up and put in a plastic bag ( a zip lock bag is good as you are going to dip in and out of it). Pat it out so the herbs are just in a thin layer and freeze. After that, a quick scrunch means that they aren’t frozen in a block and easy to use as you want.
I digress, these Salmon and Asparagus & Dill tartlets are delicious and look so pretty. They do take a bit of effort but you can’t always be a slouch and if you want to impress then give these a go. You can use all different sorts of fillings as long as it is previously cooked and bind it with the ‘basic tart mix’ and away you go. The cases can be made well ahead and frozen. If I have some leftover pastry I often use it for a tart or two (it’s surprising how little pastry they take), freeze it and then I can use them when I want. You can also do the same with sweet pastry (with fillings such as strawberries, raspberries or my favourite lemon tart). Lable them carefully, I have to admit that whilst testing this recipe I mixed them up and my son got a very strange tasting tart! It was a lucky dip 3 were with sweet pastry and three with ordinary pastry. Hmmm…
FRESH SALMON AND ASPARAGUS TART WITH DILL
Makes 1x 25cm tart or 6 x 10 cm tartlets
BASIC SHORTCRUST PASTRY
225g plain white flour
Pinch of salt
50g block margarine, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
50g firm lard or vegetable fat i.e. Cookeen at room temperature, cut into small pieces
Very cold water.
- Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Rub the margarine and the lard into the flour. Use your fingertips and try to incorporate air by lifting the mixture up and letting it fall.
- When the mixture resembles damp breadcrumbs, sprinkle over about 4 tablespoons of cold water over the surface.
- Using a long, round-bladed knife, start mixing, cutting and pressing the mixture against the side of the bowl. If the mixture still looks crumbly add a little more water. Use your hand to knead the mixture round and round the bowl until it leaves the sides more or less cleanly. Try to do it without overworking it.
- When you have a smooth ball of pastry, wrap it in foil or a polythene bag and rest the dough somewhere cool for 20 minutes before using.
TO MAKE THE PASTRY CASES AND BAKE ‘BLIND’
One quantity of pastry
A little beaten egg (if you get the filling ready now you will have some ready)
- Pre-heat the oven and a baking sheet to 190c, Gas 5.
Grease the tin well using a pastry brush and a little oil.
Sprinkle work surface with a little plain flour and roll out the pastry quite thinly. Using the tins gauge by eye that you have sufficient to cover the base and the sides plus some extra, and cut out circles.
- Lay the pastry over the tin and gently press round into the base. Go over the sides pushing the pastry with your thumb to strengthen the sides. Trim off excess with a sharp knife. Prick the base with a fork a few times. Brush base with a little beaten egg. Let the tart case rest for 10 minutes if possible.
- To bake blind means to bake the case without the filling. This makes it nice and crispy & avoids the risk of a ‘soggy bottom’. Line each tin with a square piece of foil big enough to loosely cover the sides. Fill with ceramic baking beans. (They aren’t strictly necessary with small tartlets if the pastry does puff up then just smooth it down with a wooden spoon) Put the cases on the heated tray and bake for about 20 minutes until golden-if you touch it with your finger it should feel ‘dry’
Allow to cool before filling.
BASIC TART FILLING
3 tbsp. double cream
2 large eggs beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Approx. 75g grated cheese (depending on tart could be gruyere/cheddar/parmesan etc.)
These 4 ingredients can be used to bind any previously cooked filling e.g. a classic quiche Lorraine, leek & beetroot, Mediterranean roasted vegetables, spinach and feta etc. for most of these fillings you will need precooked chopped onion as well.
Put your filling into the case first. Pour over the cream/egg mix and then sprinkle with cheese.
225-280g fresh Salmon (weighed with skin) either fillets or back pieces
A little lemon juice
A little butter
100g Asparagus tips
A good tablespoon of fresh dill
Increase the oven heat to 200C, Gas 6 and pre-heat the baking tray again.
- Remove the skin from salmon (if necessary) with a sharp knife.
- Cook the salmon in the microwave (or the oven). First, sprinkle with the lemon juice and dot with butter. Cover with cling film and cook on high power for about 2-5 minutes. Fish is cooked when the flesh is opaque and easily flakes. Don’t overcook! Leave on one side
- Bring some water to the boil in a small pan. Add salt. Cut up the spears, leaving any parts of the stem that is tough. Cook them briefly until a point of a knife enters them easily. Drain on kitchen paper.
- Flake the salmon and put into the case with the asparagus pieces, spread around evenly. Make up the tart mix and add the chopped dill to it. Spoon over the filling.
- Cook asap transferring the tart to the baking tray and then into the oven. Cook for about 20-25 until filling is set. Let it rest for 5 minutes before eating.
To prepare ahead: The pastry cases can be frozen raw and cooked when needed. The cooked case will keep crisp in a tin for a few days. The filled tart does not re-heat well or freeze.
* I decided against adding cheese with salmon as it can overwhelm and I am not keen on cheese and fish!