In the first few days of spring, our menu is unquestionably going through a substantial amount of spring cleaning; with warming, comforting dishes taking a back seat and giving way to much lighter, fresher recipes. There seems to be a close dependence between the wardrobe layers getting fewer and thinner and the cupboard ingredients getting lighter and fresher. The excitement of first warm, sunny days combined with the overall anticipation of long-awaited spring, means that there is quite a jump on the menu moving away from hearty meals straight into light recipes. In March our kitchen always seem to boast an unusual amount of all kind of new vegetables. Fresh, fresher the freshest is the undeniable theme of the month.
I enjoy quiches and tarts of all kinds, so as the new vegetables appear on market stalls, I decided to use them in this delicate ricotta tart. Half of it disappeared whilst still warm, the other half was just as delicious eaten cold a bit later on. Personally I can never decide if I prefer tarts cold or hot, theyâ€™re just equally delicious, making the dish even more versatile. Plus it works well as a main dish, or as starter or light snack. You can use any new vegetables you like, as long as theyâ€™re delicate in taste â€“ you donâ€™t want a single taste to overtake the creamy subtle taste of ricotta cheese.
For the pastry
175g plain flour
75g cold butter
For the filling
115g asparagus, cut into 4cm pieces
75g fresh garden peas
0.5 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
0.5 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
225g ricotta cheese
25ml Greek-style yogurt
40g grated vegetarian parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter, cut it into pieces with knife and then rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add a little cold water to form a smooth dough.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a tart tin with removable bottom. Prick the base with a fork and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200C / gas mark 6.
Bake the tart case for about 10 minutes until the pastry is firm, but still pale. Remove from the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180C / gas mark 4.
To make the filling, bring a pan of salted water to boil. Blanch the asparagus, mangetout and peppers for 3 minutes, then add fresh peas and simmer for another 2 minutes until almost tender. Rinse under plenty of cold water and drain.
In a bowl beat the eggs. Add ricotta, Greek-style yogurt and parmesan cheese and continue beating until all ingredients combine into a smooth mixture. Add the peas just over half of the other vegetables.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and smooth the surface with a wooden spoon.
Arrange the remaining vegetables on top, pressing them down slightly into the mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden.
Serve warm or cold.