The combination of silky spears and crisp pastry is a fine one to have on your fork. This is a rather neat little puff pastry tart, long and thin like a pencil case, the asparagus coated in a soft blanket of cream or creme fraiche and grated parmesan.
Makes 5 long, slim tarts
asparagus spears 10
puff pastry 375g sheet
double cream or creme fraiche 100ml
parmesan 50g, grated
flat-leaf parsley a few sprigs
Boil the asparagus spears, or steam them if you prefer, till tender (5 to 9 minutes, depending on thickness). They are ready when you can easily slide the point of a knife into the stem. Drain and set aside.
Set the oven at 200C/gas 6. Lay the puff pastry out on a lightly floured work surface, longest edge facing you, then cut it into five long rectangles. Place these on a baking sheet. Use a knife to score a narrow rim, roughly 1.5cm in from the edge. Don't score so deeply that you cut right through to the baking sheet.
Warm the double cream or creme fraiche and grated parmesan together and grind in a little black pepper. Divide half of this mixture between the centre of each tart. Place two asparagus spears on each one, then spoon the remaining cream and cheese mixture on top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, till the topping is just starting to turn golden brown in patches. While the tarts are baking, finely chop the parsley leaves, finely grate the lemon zest and mix them together. Remove the tarts from the oven and scatter over the lemon and parsley. Serve immediately, while the tarts are still hot and crisp.
• Nigel's new book, Kitchen Diaries II, is published by Fourth Estate at £30. To order a copy for £19.99 (including free UK mainland p&p), go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846.