- To make the pastry, sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl, and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the yeast. Lightly beat the egg with the water, and sprinkle over the rubbed-in mixture. Gather together to make a dough.
- Turn out the pastry dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth. Put it back into the bowl, cover with cling film and set aside to rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Put the garlic cloves in the bottom of a steamer with about 5 cm (2 in) of hot water. Place the stalk halves of the asparagus spears in the top of the steamer and steam for 1 minute on a moderate heat. Add the asparagus tips and steam for a further 1–1½ minutes or until just beginning to soften. (Thicker spears may need a few minutes longer.) Remove the asparagus and garlic, and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F, gas mark 6) and put a baking sheet in to heat. Roll out the pastry dough thinly (there's no need to knead it again) on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 25 cm (10 in) loose-bottomed, shallow flan tin.
- Scatter the pecorino cheese over the bottom of the pastry case, then arrange the asparagus and Parma ham on top, filling the gaps with peas.
- Squeeze the softened garlic from the skins and mash to a paste. Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the milk to boiling point, then pour over the egg mixture, whisking to mix.
- Place the flan tin on the hot baking sheet. Pour the egg custard into the tart. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Bake for a further 25–30 minutes or until the filling is lightly set and the pastry is golden brown.
- Leave the tart to stand for about 5 minutes before removing it from the tin. Serve hot or warm, cut into wedges.
Each serving provides
B12 * A, folate, calcium, zinc * B1, B2, B6, C, E, niacin, copper, iron, potassium, selenium
Some more ideas
Use freshly grated Parmesan cheese in place of the pecorino. * For a courgette and blue cheese tart, steam 400 g (14 oz) courgettes, cut into 1 cm (½ in) slices, for 3 minutes, adding the garlic cloves to the water as in the main recipe. Remove the courgettes and pat dry with kitchen paper. Arrange them in the pastry case and scatter over 50 g (1¾ oz) crumbled blue cheese such as Stilton or Roquefort and 30 g (1 oz) roughly chopped walnuts. Make the garlic custard using 3 whole eggs, 200 ml (7 fl oz) semi-skimmed milk, and salt and pepper to taste. Bake as in the main recipe.
Asparagus contains the phytochemical asparagine, which has diuretic properties. Indeed, the ancient Greeks used asparagus in the treatment of kidney problems. * Parma ham makes a good lean alternative to bacon, especially if any visible fat is trimmed away, as in this recipe.