Sunday, 18 May 2008

Asparagus Tart (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

Having four children is a lot more work than having one, two or three. Perhaps you are re-reading that line because you can’t believe I would write something so inane and self-evident. Yet it’s taken me over two years to grasp that fact. For two years I have on many occasions been heard to wail, ‘why isn’t my house as tidy as hers?’, ‘how does she manage to empty her laundry basket?‘, ‘why aren’t I as slim as her?’ For two of the above, the answer is perhaps because I have four children. For one of them it is, ‘because you eat too much crap, drink too much alcohol and don’t exercise enough’.

What was easy with two or three children becomes more complex with four. Friends do their best to help;
‘Why don’t you drop the older three off with me whilst you run that errand? It’ll be easier for you’.
Now perhaps you are the yummiest of all Mummies, and your children - whilst content to play elsewhere - willingly wave goodbye to their chums and obediently get into your car when you come to collect them. Mine don’t. In fact, they refuse to leave. The wailing and screaming rattles the windows, all shoes, bags and coats have been lost (I think they hide them), and my Yummy Mummy veneer is tarnished by my snarling. Most days it's less painful to haul everyone around with me in a reluctant, disgruntled mass.

With four children my default position tends to be; ‘No’.‘Mummy, can I have a sleepover for 10 friends?’ - ‘No’‘Mummy, can we go to Disneyworld?’ - ‘No’
‘Mummy, can we have a pet?’ - ‘No’.

So it was with rollerblading. For me, buying young children rollerblades is akin to buying an annual pass to A & E. I can hear the snapping of the bones, feel the concussing of the skulls and see the lacerating of the flesh. My answer - for an impressive two years now - has always been, ‘No’.

Yet recently, when staying with friends for the weekend, my eldest three children displayed remarkable prowess in the rollerblade department. A little plan started to form in my mind. As husband and I also possess blades dating from the misty, childfree past, I had a happy vision of us rollerblading en famille, with the 2 year old safely strapped into the baby jogger. We could be like other, smaller families, and have a fun outing together!
No sooner had I said, ‘You still haven‘t spent your birthday money‘, than the three older ones were kitted out.

The day dawned bright and sunny. We drove down to a leafy part of the Seine and spent half an hour watching them struggle to put on their protective gear, blades, socks and helmets. By the time they’d finished they looked like a cross between tiny riot police, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Barring a head-on collision with a 4x4, I couldn’t see anything piercing their armour.

They say that children reduce you to tears. Never is this more true than watching your darlings come to grips with rollerblading. Time after time a flushed and excited face would yell at me, ‘Watch this mum!’. Think Starlight Express meets the Can Can. The manoeuvre would start well with a bit of a glide, then from nowhere they would morph into extras from the Moulin Rouge, high kicks coming faster and faster, arms gyrating wildly, before the inevitable collapse backwards onto the floor.

Thank the Lord for Ray Bans. I managed to hide my tears of mirth behind them, and passed off my quivering voice as one of maternal concern. Although I did nearly lose all composure when my son nigh on performed box splits whilst navigating our slalom course comprised of shoes.

Of course the human chain idea was going to end in a mess. Dad and daughters one and two formed a line and wobbled along. I don’t know what possessed daughter two at the end of the line; she appeared to attempt a daring, sliding limbo move through the legs of her sister and Dad. She felled her sister instantly, then kicked the feet away from Dad, who landed abruptly and heavily on daughter one. The subsequent winded gasping and howling even had the Gendarmes concerned. They came to help her up and I fretted that we didn’t have any ID on us; you're supposed to have it on you at all times. Although as I pointed out to my husband, in a straight race between the corpulent one and me on my blades, I’d have left him standing. Husband silently pointed to Gendarme's gun, and I realised that resistance would be futile. Must remember my passport next time.

A break for water and popcorn worked wonders for the familial morale, and we negotiated our way safely back to the car. It was so much fun we went and did it all over again the next day. I feel so happy with our new family hobby; I foresee my flabby tummy melting away, and next time we’ll have them doing jumps.

After our rollerblading adventure I was faced with the thorny issue of tea. The short asparagus season is upon us and I feel the need to buy it at every opportunity. I whizzed up an asparagus quiche for those without allergies, and this little number for baby and me. If rollerblading isn’t for you, then perhaps this tart will be.

Bean and Asparagus Rollerblading Tart
I made 6 little tartlets because they look so cute, but you could also make one large tart; use a tin that's about 28-30cm in diameter. The filling can be made up to 4 hours ahead.

For the pastry:
150g / 1¼ cups brown rice flour
100g / ¾ cup lightly pressed down cornflour / corn starch
50g / ½ cup lightly pressed down chick pea flour / besan flour
1¼ tsp xanthan gum
2½ tsps dried mixed herbs
¼tsp salt
good grinding of black pepper
200g / 1 cup of dairy free spread
60-80ml / ¼ cup (+ a bit more) rice milk

For the filling:
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil to fry
4 medium button mushrooms
6 asparagus spears (more if you wish)
1 tin / 1½ cups cooked kidney beans
2-4 tbsps white wine
sea salt and black pepper to taste

  • Finely chop the garlic and the mushrooms (you don't really want the mushrooms to 'show' in the finished tart)
  • Cut off the woody end of the asparagus spears and lovingly cut off the tips. Preserve the tips for later, you may kiss them if you wish. Cut the remaining middle section of the asparagus into fine rounds
  • In a large frying pan, gently heat the olive oil and add the garlic and mushrooms. Fry for a minute or two. Add the chopped asparagus and fry gently for another two minutes
  • Add the tin of beans and stir
  • As the beans warm up, use a wooden spatula to gently squash them so that they release their mushy centre; this helps to bind the mix together
  • When you've finished squashing, add the white wine, stir and let it all simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and season to taste. Now get cracking on the pastry
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180° celsius
  • Seive the flours into a large mixing bowl. Add the xanthan gum, dried herbs, salt and black pepper, mix with a mini whisk to make sure everything is evenly distributed
  • Now this is weird, but melt your dairy free spread slightly. It doesn't have to be completely runny, but more liquid than not is what you're aiming for
  • Make a well in the centre of the flours and pour in 60ml of rice milk. Add the melted dairy free spread and use a wooden spoon to mix it all together. You will have a very wet dough. I ended up adding the other 20ml of rice milk as well
  • Flour a work surface with rice flour and plop your dough down into the middle of it, the base of the dough will get coated in flour. Lift up the dough, flour the surface again and turn the dough over so that the other part of it gets coated in flour. Following? What you're trying to do is get the dough 'dry' enough to roll it out
  • When you think you can chance it, roll out the dough on your well-floured surface until it's about 3mm thick. The edges of the dough do crack a little when you roll it out, but I tried not to let that panic me
  • Line your tartlet tin or large tart tin with the pastry. As every pastry chef knows, cracks in the pastry can be squidged together and patched up with other bits of pastry. It's a little known artform, sometimes called 'covering up a bodge'. Originated somewhere in the Middle East I believe. Just make sure your final product looks smooth and crack free
  • Line the base of the tart with the bean mixture (don't add the asparagus tips yet), cover with tin foil and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, until sizzling well
  • Remove the tart/s from the oven, take off the tin foil and put them back in for another five minutes-ish until the pastry is lightly tanned
  • After five minutes, remove the tarts and artistically press your asparagus tips down into the bean mix. Lightly brush the tips with olive oil using a silicone brush, cover the tarts back up again (on, off, on off, make your mind up Pig) and put them back in the oven for another 5-10 mins. The point of doing this is so that the asparagus tips 'steam' between the bean mix and the tin foil, and they don't end up getting too brown. I left my tips a little crunchy; nothing worse than overcooked asparagus
  • Remove the tarts from the oven and serve them to your tired, rollerblading children
  • Good with a tomato salad and some chilled white wine. Well you definitely deserve the latter, you took four children rollerblading! You should probably have the whole bottle...although of course I'm not encouraging binge-drinking, liver damage, slurred speech or ridiculous drunken antics

© Pig in the Kitchen

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Miss Thistle said...

My daughter is pretty good on rollerblades. My son, as my husband put it 'looks like a cross between Frank Spencer & Norman Wisdom'. (Put in 'Frank Spencer on roller skates' on You Tube and you won't be far wrong). I am just thankful that he has not been tempted to try to ramps at the skate park....Yet!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Miss T, maybe it's a boy thing to be a bit uncoordinated?! It can't be long until he tries the will need all your medical wits about you!

Milla said...

I'm almost tempted. No not by the pie, silly, that goes without saying, but by the roller blading thing. Saw a v cool girl in London this weekend sailing up a hill and was most impressed.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Milla, that must have been me! You should've said hello. It is a v. fun sport, but I spent hours falling on my arse before I perfected my nonchalant gliding.
Bonne chance!

Elsie Button said...

Pig, you are an all singing, all dancing, all rollerblading, all cooking, all asparagus buying, all everything.... SUPER MUM!

Did that sentence make sense?

GoneBackSouth said...

Mmmm, I love asparagus. And that roller blading sounds brilliant! By the way, my default position is also "no" and I only have 2 children ...

Akelamalu said...

I could visualise it all from your excellent description and the tears were rolling!

What a great family thing to do. :)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

elsieB, you are my all-time number 1 fan!!! It made perfect sense to me.

GBS, I can't keep up with your picture changes! Rollerblading is fab, a good cardio vascular workout and the rhythmic, pushing forward motion very good for the saddlebag muscles. I'm fondly imagining there are muscles under my saddlebags. Very relieved your default position is also 'no'!

Sweet Akelamalu, you're not supposed to laugh at your children are you? But it was all very, very funny!

® ♫ The Brit ♪ ® said...

Hi Pig in the kitchen,
I think that's a great thing to do together! so many families these days are so disconnected - what with the internet, television and playstations, e.t.c. to get in the way of family interaction!
Rollerblading is very cool, and I love your food photos here! It all looks so delicious and you are making me want to go to the fridge to do a bit of "thinking" haha

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hello The brit (i can't do the musical notes), welcome to you! It was indeed a good bonding activity. This is the voice of Pig in the Kitchen, 'goooo to the friidge. Induuulllgge. Enjooooyy'.

gillie said...

The rollerblading I can live with, it was when the girls got skateboards and I thought I might just give them a teeny weeny go and traversed our courtyard slowly and gently (easy peasy I thought) and then hit the slope and headed towards the field, the lane and the hedgerow (at the speed I was travelling it was hard to tell which was which) that I realised there was more to it that I had realised. My default position has become yes and but please ask your father to deal with the arterial bleeds LOL.

Love the pie. DH is away and if I raid his precious asparagus crowns without him here I might become history, so will have to wait until the weekend.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

gillie, ha ha ha! I love the blurred hedgerows and the increasing speed! Note to self, NEVER allow skateboards.

Yes, leave his asparagus alone or he might lightly steam you and serve you with a bearnaise sauce!
thanks for visiting.

Vegetation said...

Haha! I love your family tales of woe. I have 3 kids of my own, all who have owned rollerblades for at least 12 months. I too had visions of the family rollerblading together. I did not bank on the fact that the husbands feet would no longer fit into rollerblades of any sort and they have sadly spent a year under the kids beds collecting dust.

Mmm the tart looks delicious. In fact, all your food looks delicious!

Vegetation said...

Yep, celeriac kind of looks like a knobbly heart, arteries and all :P

And yes, we really do have winter here! Where I live right now it's a relatively mild winter, but 6 months ago, where I lived got down to -5 Celsius in winter and in some parts of Australia it snows.

I'm so glad I found your blog. Being vegetarian and/or vegan with multiple food intolerances can be difficult. Especially when you have kids and everyones intolerances and allergies are different!

Brom said...

Roller Derby (google it) for you next then Pig?, If so, please send the pics, ;-)

lowood6 said...

Hi PITK! Another fabulous creation! I'll have to try that when we have local asparagus down under...

It's inspiring to hear about your family life - where do you get the energy?! Makes me think I should really get off my bxtt and do something fun with the kids - and I went to the autumn beach with kids this week and made mountains and tunnels... I suppose we'll be rollerblading when they're older and I pray I will miraculously attain decent coordination to cope with the challenge...

By the way, I am wondering whether you may have already tried baking Schiacciata alla Fiorentina with allergen-free ingredients? (wishful thinking wishful thinking wishful thinking!!!) Do you think it's possible to make it allergens-free?

lowood6 said...

Or Panforte?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

VEgetation,(twice) welcome! Oh damn the husband's outsize feet! glad you cleared up the celeriac thing, it's always a vegetable I'm slightly scared by. It snows in Australia???!! I really should have paid attention in Geography. I'm also very glad you found my blog!

Hmmm Brom, I DID just google roller derby...are tiny skirts and up-the-bum pants obligatory then?? Trust me, my arse is much better encased in voluminous material, there'll be no roller derby for me.

Lowood6, hello again! I hope you enjoy the tart when you get the wherewithall to make it. My energy comes solely from caffeine, and the need to run my 4 darlings into the ground so that they don't make quite so much noise in the house.

Now you've scared me with your italian-speak! Is it a bit like focaccia? and panforte...? oh i'm so ignorant!

lowood6 said...

Hi PITK - Please don't be alarmed - I had to look up the SaF thing on the net - realised later that what I wanted to make was more of a Panforte thing... has the info re: Panforte. Just by looking at the recipe I am hopeful that it will be ok with no egg/gluten/nuts though I have no idea how I could find communion wafers!!! ?use (edible)rice paper instead?
Anyhow, I hope you're enjoying the warmer weather!!!

Kitty said...

I once knew someone who had four kids - she told me the work doubled with each additional child: two is twice as much work as one, three is twice as much again, and four ... well, you're just permanently exhausted.

I don't know how you do it :-O x

Grit said...

omg. the kids are supposed to be going rollerblading every friday. i keep lying and say it is thursday. they are getting suspicious because you don't tend to get two thursdays coming together... i may have to give in on the rollerblading, but as a consolation i will have a go at the tarts.

ExpatKat said...

Great story Pig and I'm always looking for ideas with my asparagus. Have been blanching them and then wrapping in goats cheese and panchetta, but think I'll give the tarts a try now.

Canadiandream said...

Asparagus is such a handsome vegetable! Squeaky is now eating solids by herself, so I'm going to have to try this one (baby-sized), Piggy. Yummy.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

lowood6, well now i'm officially freaked out by mention of communion wafers...i shall google it forthwith. And your mention of warm weather has jinxed it, cold and wet here today. ;-)

Kitty, you see I am still deluding myself about the amount of work involved, mainly becoz when planning my fourth I fell for that line of, 'four isn't really much more work than three'. It seemed good logic at the time, but I think I only applied it to food prep: when making a veggie chilli, you may as well make for four instead of three. I neglected to apply the logic to: washing, sheet changing, sewing name tapes on school uniform, packing bags...shall I go on?! You're right; permanent exhaustion masked by caffeine, alcohol and blogging.
Very happy to see you are back, I love your monkeys!

Oh Grit, two thursdays in a row? have you held off teaching them the days of the week? A wise plan. In fact the rollerblading is fun, and you've got three girls, so you don't have to watch a testosterone-fuelled 5 year old with no fear of death careering around. It'll all be fine!

ExpatKat, ooo blanching, I've not tried that, I tend to steam them, but what you do sounds yummy, sans pancetta for me tho...

Hello CAnadiandream, welcome! yes, start your child young on delicious asparagus...altho can i just point out the nappy odours??! Just hold your breath

Alex in Beverley said...

Hi Pig

We too like the joy of rollerblading, although the kids can now leave me far behind as they weave in and out of people on Bridlington Prom (apologies to anyone who has been scared out of their wits by 2 blond explosions of energy)! I just let myself glide along and go for style and pretend i don't know them as they weave and bob around me! Oh yes the tart looks great by the way - look forward to trying it!
Alex in Beverley

Frog in the Field said...

A Pig on Blades? Wow..respect!!

elizabethm said...

I am in awe. i have utterly no co-ordination and would be funnier than your children on roller blades. We had four children between us so identify with the default no. There was also the horror of having to do for all what you did for one so even when feeling like saying yes realising that you couldnt afford it.

Guineapigmum said...

Are you really SuperPig? Zooming along with a red cape and underpants... let's not go there. Rollerblading good - just don't let them loose on skateboards unless you have multiple icepacks and much arnica to hand. By the way, there is a pitk tribute blog post chez moi.


Frog in the Field said...

Pig in a red cape and 'underpants', sounds just too sexy for words .....

Naomi Devlin said...

That's a great story - reminds me why I have only produced one child, but also increases my awe of you inordinately.

I still love you even though you use corn starch and rice flour and drink more than a thimble of dry wine on occasion ( I have a food philosophy and it's not fascism).

Proof of this being that I got that twang of salivary glands gearing up for drool the moment I clapped eyes on those 'artistically' placed pieces of asparagus placed on that lovely beany filling.

x x x

seamaiden said...

Ooh, the recipe sounds delish! Love the photo as well. :) I've been making a tasty vegan pot pie lately and I feel myself going tart-ward. :)


Mya said...

Pig, the tart looks fab! I'm just like you - as soon as asparagus hits the shops, I buy it most frequently. It's good for your urinary tract, don't you know. Can you cook and rollerblade at the same time? You know, being a Superpig...

Bon weekend!

Mya x

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Thought I'd left you a comment... My eldest always had to be forcibly removed after visiting other people. Holding on to door frames, screaming, limbs flailing all over the place. Many expletives spring to mind when I remember this, I too would sometimes stay at home just to avoid these outbursts.

As for rollerblading - RESPECT ! I used to skateboard as a child and loved it. Can you imagine now?! I'd put myself back in hospital for sure. Oh bo**ocks - I think in a few months I could give it a go but I wouldn't want the kids to do it - far too dangerous!

Stay at home dad said...

Much as I'd like to think one is more difficult, I suppose 4 might have its problems. In fact Elsie and I were discussing this only the other day. You were missed.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Alex in B, hello again. I like the image of you gliding and ignoring your crazy kids on blades. And Brid! I've been to Brid!

FITF, indeed a pig on blades...some things are better imagined than seen in the flesh

elizM, yes! you're right, that's another reason why I say 'no' a lot. I'd forgotten that reason, thank-you.

GPM, a febrile imagination dear, you are wise to try and tame it. I've been and looked at your lovely homage, merci! My son practically salivates when he sees someone on a skateboard, it can't be long now...

FITF, again, some things better left unseen

oh ND, now i'm stressing about using corn starch!!! I wasn't being fa-see-shus (not even worth attempting to spell that one)about your food philosophy, I like to hear other people's reasons for doing what they do. I really think I seldom drink more than a small cup of wine at any given time... glad you like the look of the tart

Hello Seamaiden, thanks for your visit, and pleased you are drooling. A pot pie sounds lovely, I'll be over soon

MYA, some useful information there, about the urinary tract I mean. Can that be true? I suppose the odour would kill off most things known to pigs. I do perform a rather neat move that involves blading backwards whilst unhooking my bra and flipping pancakes. Took me years to perfect.

A@LF, holding onto door jambs is serious resistance, I might have to sedate (homeopathically bien sur) if one of mine resorts to that. Please - and i am pleading - don't skateboard, you've been gone long enough!

Sweet SAHD, I like the mild, ruminatory way in which you said that. It captures nothing of the seething maelstrom that is 4 kids.

I have heard all about supposed literary festivals laced with alcohol and the japes of you and Elsie. I'm sulking slightly.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

One of these days I'm gonna learn to cook...I can't rely on risotto and chocolate cake (Delia's) forever...super posting BTW.