FOOD HONESTLY

The joy of the big, help-yourself Easter lunch

Photo: Matt Russell

According to new research, more of us eat alone than ever before. So if there’s one thing you do this bank holiday weekend, it’s use this time to get friends and family round, says Anna Jones

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By Anna Jones on

Food has always given me a connection with the people, those I cook it for and those I share a table with. It’s why I cook. Whether it’s the recipes I send out into the world or around my kitchen table at home, it’s these connections with people that keep me fired up about food. So to read that communal eating “increases social bonding and feelings of wellbeing” doesn’t seem to me that newsworthy. It’s a given. But it seems a lot of us are missing out on the benefits.

According to new research from the University of Oxford the average adult eats 10 meals out of 21 alone every week. Busy lives and hectic work schedules are the main cause for this slightly depressing trend. I get that life is busy and I don’t get chance to eat dinner with my son every night (5.30 is a very early dinner for me) but we do our best to do as much as we can. And that’s all we can do, our best.

 Easter seems to be a perfect opportunity for a big gathering – less pressure than the big Christmas dinner, warm enough to sit outside in the garden if we’re lucky

Even more important then to get together and celebrate whenever we can. Easter seems to be a perfect opportunity for a big gathering – less pressure than the big Christmas dinner, warm enough to sit outside in the garden if we’re lucky, and the beginning of the heady days and long nights ahead.

It’s a time of year when I stop wearing socks and start dreaming of all the British produce that’s on its’ way. Asparagus, surely, is one of the signposts of summer. It marks a change in the year, heralding warmer days and this delicious tart is a great way to make the most of the very first of the year’s asparagus. Keep the woody ends of the asparagus you have snapped off here to flavour a stock for a soup or risotto. Although too tough to eat, they still have a lot of flavour.

If the sun does comes out this weekend, I won’t be inclined to spend the whole day in the kitchen. This recipe can be put together leisurely over in a couple of hours, with a few breaks for sitting in the garden, or whatever you choose. I often make a double batch of the roasted tomato dressing – it’s great for spooning over roasted potatoes, spreading on toast or as a punchy salad dressing.

 

Sticky roasted tomato, rosemary and asparagus tart with tomato dressing
 

 

(Serves 8)

  • 600g cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing and brushing
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 2 x 450g bunches of asparagus
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 8 sheets filo pastry

DRESSING

  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 75ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Preheat the oven to 150 ̊C, gas mark 1.
  1. Start by cutting the tomatoes in half and laying them cut-side up on a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and 1 tbsp olive oil and slow-roast for about 11⁄2 hours, until soft, sweet and sticky. Meanwhile, sauté the leek in a frying pan with 1 tbsp oil for 20 minutes, until soft and sweet; set aside.
  2. For the dressing, pound the rosemary and garlic to a rough paste using a pestle and mortar. Add a handful (about 50g) of the roasted tomatoes and pound until they start to break down. Add the mustard and vinegar; stir well to combine. Pour in the extra virgin olive oil, stirring. Taste and season; the dressing should be quite coarse and textured.
  3. Bring a large pan of salted water to a vigorous boil. Snap the asparagus spears near the base – they will naturally break off where the fibrous part ends – and discard the ends. Drop the asparagus into the water and cook for 11⁄2 minutes; they should still be firm but not crunchy to bite. Remove with tongs, put into a bowl and immediately season and dress with the remaining 1 tbsp oil.
  4. Mix the eggs, crème fraîche, mustard, lemon zest and sautéed leek with a good pinch of salt and pepper; set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 ̊C. Grease a baking tray (about 26cm x 36cm) with olive oil. Layer the filo into the tray, brushing with a little oil between each sheet, leaving a 3-4cm overhang (you will fold this up later to make the edge).
  6. Once the filo shell is ready, scatter in the asparagus, then pour over the leek and crème fraîche mixture. Scatter over the remaining roasted tomatoes. Scrunch the overhanging filo into a scruffy, frilly edge, then brush with a little more oil.
  7. Bake the tart on the bottom shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and lightly golden and the filling is just set. Serve warm, with the tomato dressing spooned over the top.

@we_are_food

Anna Jones' book A Modern Way To Cook is out now. 

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Photo: Matt Russell
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