Choose fat asparagus rather than skinny ones for these gorgeous little tarts.
2 bunches asparagus
2 squares pre-rolled frozen puff pastry sheets
1 small free-range egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g (3-4 ounces) young goat’s cheese
One generous wedge preserved lemon
Small handful basil leaves
Lemon-infused or regular extra virgin olive oil
1 Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Trim asparagus and lay them in a shallow roasting tin lined with baking paper (I use a Swiss roll tin / jelly roll pan). Drizzle lightly with a little oil then season with salt and pepper. Lift the sides of the paper to gently move the asparagus around so they become coated in oil, then spread them out in a single layer again. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tips are starting to caramelise. Remove asparagus from oven and cool, then cut spears in half.
2 Partially thaw pastry squares. Cut one sheet into 4 equal pieces. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Dampen the edges of the pastry squares with water. Cut the other pastry square into fat strips, then lay these around the edges of the pastry, cutting them to fit with a small sharp knife. If during any part of this the pastry softens and becomes sticky, chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes before carrying on.
3 Rinse preserved lemon under cold tap, dislodge pulp and discard, then pat rind dry. Slice thinly. Beat egg with a pinch of salt to help it liquefy. Brush egg on pastry edges. Crumble goat’s cheese and divide between pastry squares. Scatter with basil. Lay asparagus over the top and scatter with preserved lemon rind.
4 Lower oven heat to 200°C (400°F). Bake tarts for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is a good golden brown. Serve hot.
The remaining beaten egg can be kept in a covered container in the fridge for 2 days.
I like to serve these tarts with a salad of interesting leaves, herbs and edible flowers. Slow-roasted tomatoes also make a good accompaniment.