1/3 cup virgin olive oil
2 tsp black pepper
Fresh artichokes are a wonderful springtime treat, especially when cooked simply and served warm with a lemon vinaigrette dressing.
Rinse artichokes well in cold water.
Chop off the stalks and pop them into a pan of boiling water.
Squeeze in the juice of a lemon and for added flavour drop in the peel as well.
Put a plate on top of the artichokes to keep them underwater and boil for 40 minutes.
While they are cooking, make the dressing by mixing the olive oil with the mustard, pepper and the juice of the other lemon.
Stir it up well and that's it.
To see if the artichokes are cooked, pierce the base with a fork.
It should be soft.
Leave them to drain upside down for a few minutes then pour over the dressing.
To eat, just pull out a leaf at a time and suck the fleshy part at the base.
When you've enjoyed this experience, you'll find the succulent heart of the vegetable waiting for you.
I remove the furry choke before eating the heart.
Tip: Artichokes should be bought with a good firm head. Squeeze the vegetable gently before you buy. It won't mind, although the storekeeper might.
Asparagus and Pecorino Omelette
6 or 7 spears fresh asparagus
4 large eggs (67g) or equivalent in smaller eggs
1 Tbsp milk
25g pecorino or other hard cheese
1 Tbsp chopped parsley or chives (optional).
Eggs are such good energy food and easy to prepare.
An omelette is great eating at any time of day or night.
Briefly steam or boil the asparagus in lightly salted water for couple of minutes.
Beat eggs with milk and a grinding of pepper.
Smear a non-stick frying pan with a little lightly flavoured oil.
Over medium heat, pour in the egg mixture.
When the omelette is almost dry on top, add the asparagus to one side, and slices of pecorino.
Fold other half over.
For a lighter touch, ricotta could be used.
Serve sprinkled with a little chopped parsley or chives.
Caramelised onion and goat cheese tart
200g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg (61g)
1 Tbsp cold water (or more if necessary)
1 tsp freshly grated lemon rind (optional)
2 large brown onions
1 Tbsp butter
4 large eggs
tsp grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
tsp finely chopped sage leaves or dill (optional)
100g goat cheese
The pastry should always be homemade.
I include a little grated lemon rind in a basic short crust pastry.
I process the pastry in a food processor, but it may be made by hand, as below.
The pastry case is blind-baked, then filled with a goat cheese and caramelised onion mixture.
Cheats may care to use a bought pastry or pastry case and save themselves heaps of time.
Pre-heat oven to 190C.
Put flour in large mixing bowl.
Make well in the centre.
Add other ingredients except the water.
Using the fingers, rub the butter pieces with the egg and gradually merge in the flour, a little at a time.
When ingredients are merged, add cold water.
Knead the dough gently for a minute or so.
Do not overwork. (If the mixture seems too dry, add a little more water)
Shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
By food processor:
Put all pastry ingredients in food processor.
Shape into a ball.
Wrap in plastic film.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Prepare a 24/25cm tart tin or flan dish (preferably fluted).
A tin with a removable base is ideal.
Smear with butter or oil.
Roll out pastry on a floured surface and put into the tin/dish, pressing up the sides.
Fold in excess from the edge and pinch into the pastry wall.
Prick the base all over with a fork.
Put a circular piece of baking paper onto the base.
Fill with dried beans or rice.
Blind bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Spoon out beans/rice, put base back in the oven and allow to cook a further five or six minutes, until starting to brown.
Remove and fill
Cut the onion into cm rings and cook in butter until well-cooked and browned.
Whisk the other ingredients together except the goat cheese.
Put onion in base of the tart, pour over egg/cream mixture.
Crumble in goat cheese.
Bake tart in the oven at 190C for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on container (cooking with be quicker when using a baking tin and/or a fan forced oven.)
Top of tart should be firm and golden brown.
Allow to cool a little before serving warm - or serve cold.