E8-style asparagus, onion and tomato tartlets

Asparagus, onion and tomato tartlets 030713 © david.altheer@gmail.com

EVERY WEEK I take £5  to Ridley Road Market in Dalston, Hackney, London E8 2LH, to spend on seasonal food, obviously not including items likely to be already in a kitchen, such as sauces, oil, herbs and spices. On Friday I tell you what I have chosen and publish a seasonal recipe.

As usual, expenditure on any extra ingredients, eg, flour, will be recouped by usage over subsequent weeks. Some of the recipes will be frugal. They will all be vegetarian. They will be tasty.

This week’s £5 basketridleylogD

Bowl peppers (6) £1

Bowl courgettes (4) £1

Bowl onions (15) £1

Bowl cherry tomatoes (too many to count) £1

Bunch asparagus 50p

White peaches (3) 50p

Total £5


THE weekend is expected to be sunny, so how lovely to have a picnic with a variety of homemade tarts. (Or, how foolish of me to take a chance on the forecast.) You’ll need pastry, which is easier to make than you might have been told. I always make double the quantity needed so that I can freeze half for use at a later time. Allow about 75 minutes from start to finish, using several methods simultaneously.

Recipe: Asparagus, onion andtomato tartlets. Serves 8

Equipment: 2 bowls (1 large, 1 small), fork, teaspoon, clingfilm or clean plastic bag, vegetable peeler, kitchen knife, saucepan or steamer, tablespoon, frying pan, rolling pin, pastry brush, tartlet cases or pie dish (it is possible to buy packs of foil cases for one-off use although washed they can be used a second time), greaseproof paper, baking beans or any dried beans

Preparation — shortcrust pastry: 10 minutes and resting 30 minutes. Cook blind for 6 and then 4 minutes. Vegetables: 10 minutes, cooking 10 minutes, baking 10 minutes.

Ingredientsshortcrust pastry: 250g plain flour,  175g cold unsalted butter diced,* 1 egg — beaten, pinch salt, and if needed cold water to bind. Nob of melted butter.

Ingredients — tartlet fillings: 4 spears asparagus, two onions, tablespoon oil, enough tomatoes to fill 2 tartlet cases, 3 eggs — beaten, seasoning and herbs of choice. Optional extras that may be in your store cupboard and need to be used up — olive tapenade, pesto and tomato paste. Old hardened cheese could also be used.

Healthy budget food: what I bought in the market and, top, what I cooked (a little burnt — whoops)

* Any fat will do but butter gives pastry a lovely texture and flavour.

Method — shortcrust pastry: Place the flour in a bowl and add butter. Rub the butter with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the salt and beaten egg and bring together with your finger tips to form a smooth dough. If it’s not coming together easily, add a teaspoon of cold water. Depending on the size of the egg, water may be needed. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and place in a fridge to rest for 30 minutes. (You can make this pastry in a food processor.) 

Set oven to 190C.

Method — fillings: Chop the tough, white ends off the asparagus and thinly peel the stalks. Cut to fit the tartlet tins. Steam or poach in a saucepan until just tender. Do not over-cook. Remove and drain and set to one side. Meanwhile, peel and thinly slice the onions. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then add the onions and cook slowly until soft about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally so that it does not burn.  Leave in the pan until needed. Wash the tomatoes and cut in half. Thoroughly beat the eggs together with the seasoning and any herbs of choice.

Brush the tartlet tins with the melted butter. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin. I roll my pastry between the clingfilm so as not to add more flour. However, rolling out pastry is usually done by a light dusting of flour on the rolling surface and pin so that the pastry does not stick to either. Keep dusting if the pastry keeps sticking. 

Line the tartlet tins with the pastry, trimming any excess to be rerolled at the end. Prick the base of the pastry and line with greaseproof paper and top with the beans and place in a preheated oven and cook for 6 minutes. Then take the pastry cases out of the oven and remove the beans and greaseproof paper. Return the pastry cases to the oven to crisp for a further 4 minutes. Leave to cool while preparing the fillings.

When cooled and before adding the fillings, the optional items — olive tapenade or pesto with the tomatoes, tomato paste with the asparagus and onionscan be thinly spread on the base of each pastry case and the stale cheese grated and added to the onions or tomatoes. 

Pour in the beaten egg to half fill each pastry case. Place the asparagus in two pastry cases, the tomatoes in two more and I put the onion mixture in a large tart tin but there is enough to fill 4 small pastry cases. Top up each case with the egg mixture until just below the rim and return to the oven to heat through for 10 minutes until the egg mixture is cooked. 

If there is any leftover beaten egg, keep it and add it to an omelette within two days.

It will by now be clear that this recipe requires slightly more preparation than my usual recipes do. But to pacify the editor, who took a bit of pacifying over last week’s off-piste excursion, I’ll add that sometimes taking the time to make something that is tasty and looks inviting to share with some friends is especially satisfying.

Shooey 030714

Juan @ his Colombian stall in Ridley Rd Market 27 June 2013 © ∂å
Ever-evolving: Ridley Road and its latest stall, hats and hot food, run by Juan, left, from Colombia

* Two websites have written about this column. Hackney Post has published an interview with Shooey, as has the Food Bankers. Hackney council journalist Marcel Reinard has made a video about markets, including Ridley Road. 

* Emboldened or tinted words may indicate a hyperlink, a special service for Loving Dalston readers who may want to look further into a topic. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

*Previous articles hyperlinked: Sparkling elderflower and fritters 28 June 2013; Beetroot quinoa salad 21 June 2013; Lemon couscous with spicy mushrooms 14 June 2013; Lurgied 7 June 2013At last, the Alphonso 31 May 2013; Aubergine salad 24 May 2013; Asparagus with hollandaise 17 May 2013Stuffed beef tomatoes with guacamole 10 May 2013Hackney snackney 3 May 2013Bell pepper salad 26 April 2013Gnocchi and tomato sauce with zucchini salad  19 April 2013 Tomato soup with soda bread 12 April 2013Broccoli mornay 5 April 2013Easter redemption song 29 March 2013 Less  is enough 22 March 2013A tart in the mart 15 March 2013; Polenta verde and sauté mushrooms 8 March 2013; Caribeasy 29 February 2013; Feeling fruity 22February 2013; Kashmir delight 15 February 2013Samphire surprise 8 February 2013Two dishes from £5 1 February 2013Ae fond neep 25 January 2013Cauliflower cheese 18 January 2013Hackney frittata 11 January 2013;  Tasty and easy Christmas snack 21 December 2012The shops behind the market stalls 9 November 2012Chutney 2 November 2012;  Piccalilli 26 October 2012Golden soup 19 October 2012Roasted, stuffed squash 12 October 2012Vegetable curry 5 October 2012Carrot and coriander soup 28 September 2012Ratatouille Gypsy stew 21 September 2012Bubble and squeak Shooey styleBakewell pudding 14 September 2012Coleslaw and radishes 7 September 2012Turkish spinach pie 31 August 2012Tomato tart, marinated aubergines, fresh mango chutney 24 August 2012Roasted butternut squash soup and beetroot salad 17 August 17 2012The column sets itself a challenge 15 August 2012


This site welcomes fair comments, including the critical. Letters may be edited for grammatical, legal or taste reasons, for shortening or for substitution of Wikipedia citations by reliable sources. RSS feed link is at top right. Twitter: @lovingdalston