Asparagus tart with smoked salmon, basil and blue cheese

imageAsparagus tart with smoked salmon, basil and blue cheese

It is great having visitors, and in Rome we get many. Friends need a map, and a steady supply of prosecco/wine/limoncello/amaro, that is easy. Relatives coming with children, that is something else. They will ruthlessly rummage though your fridge and cupboards, looking for ketchup/hot dogs/juice/Nutella (insert various items we do not have.) So I am tidying up the fridge to make room for child-friendly food and large bits of watermelon, while looking forward to touring gelaterias and finally watching “Frozen” with my nieces. I bringing this to The Novice Gardeners Fiesta Friday 22, with apologies for being late, and am off to browse the gorgeous dishes there next.

1 plain tart base (of course it is far better if you make your own, but in World Cup month I feel justified in taking a short cut, and bought pasta sfoglia, puff pastry)

200 gr smoked salmon
1 bunch of green asparagus (about 500 gr)
Handful of fresh basil
4 eggs
Pinch of black pepper
50 ml milk
100 gr blue cheese (or plain cheese if you prefer)
50 gr hard cheese (I used pecorino stagionato)

Pre-heat your oven to 190C. Press out or roll out tart base in a 25 cm tin. If you have a loose bottomed one, super. Pre-bake base for ten minutes. I pricked the base several times with a fork so ii would not puff up too much. Best to trim extra overhanging pastry after this first bake, as pastry will shrink during baking, though I generally forget that!

Wash the asparagus, and cut it into 3-4 cm pieces, saving some tops to decorate the tart. Not too large pieces, as you want them to cook through. Dice the smoked salmon. Crumble the blue cheese. Take the half-baked base out of the oven. Distribute asparagus and smoked salmon on pastry base, crumble over blue cheese and fresh basil. Beat eggs and milk, add pepper, and pour this over asparagus and salmon. Crumble hard cheese on top.

Bake at 190C for 45 minutes until firm and nicely golden.


Notes: This was concocted to use up blue cheese, left over from pasta with fresh figs, blue cheese, pancetta and basil. I wondered if it would be a bit odd with the smoked salmon, but it was very nice, and was good cold for lunch the next day too.

PS I confess, we broke down and just bought a small second fridge. I had been saving up for a romantic sixth anniversary weekend away, but between the World Cup and a deadline for my husband, that was not possible. So I ordered a fridge. Hopefully it arrives before the next guests do.

Sourdough loaf with potato


Another warm weekend, but Rome is still not really hot, which is wonderful. So here is a sourdough loaf with potato, which I am bringing to Fiesta Friday 21, along with this gorgeous mozzarella di bufala from Campania,with tomatoes and basil, so people can assemble their own caprese salad along with some freshly sliced prosciutto. Many thanks to the hosts!


Sourdough loaf with potato

100 grammes mature sourdough starter (100% hydration)
140 grammes cold boiled potatoes, diced
400 grammes water
415 grammes plain wheat flour
80 grammes wholewheat flour
50 grammes coarse rye flour
10 grammes salt

Stir the sourdough starter with the water and the leftover potatoes, skin and all. Add the flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. Add the salt. Mix well. Add more flour or water if you think the dough needs it. My dough was quite wet so I added a little more flour: the dough should be pliable, but not too gloopy.

Cover the bowl and let rise for a few hours at room temperature. Rome is warm, so in my 29C kitchen it doubled in two hours, it might take your dough longer. Fold the dough a few times along the way (just fold in the bowl, using a spoon or spatula). You will feel the dough becoming more elastic, and it will increase nicely in volume.

A few hours before baking, fold dough into a banneton or bread tin, and let rest a couple hours until it has risen again nicely. (You can also leave it overnight in the fridge, which gives better flavour. But we needed this for a late lunch.)


When ready to bake: heat your oven to 250C, with a cast iron pot. When it is properly hot, take the pot out carefully. Invert the dough onto a piece of baking paper, slash the dough, and put the bread in the pot. (The baking paper just bakes it easier to get the bread out afterwards.) Bake at 250C for 30 minutes with the lid on, then 15 minutes more with the lid off, until the bread looks done and the base of the bread sounds hollow if you tap it. About 45 minutes in all, depending on your oven. Cool before slicing.


Notes: this time my starter was fed with barley flour, which worked better than I expected. Normally I use rye flour for the starter. Now, I am off to browse the wonderful offerings of Fiesta Friday 21, an amazing selection I see!
PS Sunday view from our lunch. Half the neighbourhood must have gone to the beach, it was very quiet here in Garbatella today. We enjoyed our mozzarella, and watched “Heathers”. Oh, and I made macarons for the first time! Not entirely disastrous! Post to follow.

Half-time pasta with fresh figs, blue cheese, pancetta and basil

Is the World Cup impacting your life? Or holiday plans? I usually ignore football, but one week in and it keeps getter harder. Normally I arrive home, and make dinner with my lovely husband in a leisurely way, while we chat and catch up. Now, as the World Cup games start at 6PM, 9PM and midnight Rome time, there are brief windows to cook and eat at half time or between games, so quick simple meals are required. Here, we had pasta with fresh figs, blue cheese, pancetta, walnuts and basil.

Half-time pasta with fresh figs, blue cheese, pancetta, walnuts and basil

400 grammes pasta of your choice
50 grammes pancetta, diced (optional)
5-6 fresh figs, halved
5-6 walnuts, shelled
100 grammes blue cheese
Handful of fresh basil
Salt and pepper


Boil the pasta in salted water. In the meantime, if including pancetta, bacon or such: dice the pancetta and fry it until crispy. Then move to a small plate covered with paper towel, so that soaks up some of the grease. Leave a little pancetta fat in the frying pan, you will use it for the figs.

Note: If your figs are very ripe, this next step is not needed. Just quarter the figs and serve on pasta. My figs were a little hard, so I thought they might improve with heat. Halve your fresh figs, and place them cut side down in the hot frying pan. Gently fry them for a few minutes each side. Take them out carefully, and slice each half in two again. It just makes it easier to eat while watching football. (I do not pretend to be interested.)

While the pasta is finishing and the figs are softening, roughly crumble the blue cheese. Shell and break up the walnuts. Rinse the basil, shake off the water and take the leaves off the stems.


Almost there! Now, take out half a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. You might not need much of the starchy water, but if the pasta looks a bit dry, a few splashes will help and is a good alternative to adding cream.

Time to assemble: pasta into a bowl, then blue cheese sprinkled over. Stir it a couple times; I added a small splash of pasta water to loosen the pasta and cheese. Not too much, though. Then toss in the rest: crispy pancetta, walnuts, basil. Finally, place the fig quarters on top and serve.

Salt and pepper optional, as is watching the second half of the game….


Notes: As you may recall, I have been studying for a French exam. Well, I passed the written part! Whoohoo! Must have been that sourdough vocabulary in French I managed to include, about les boulangeries artisanales et du pain au levain. Next week, oral exam. Eh bien, ma ruse est de préparer les macarons dimanche, d’enricher mon vocabulaire et pour me détendre. Nous verrons……