This fragrant fennel fronds pesto is a great way of using up otherwise discarded fluffy fronds you find at the top of a fennel bulb. In my case I had lots as my fennel plant has turned into a beanstalk overnight! I mixed fennel fronds with basil to make this, ensuring the aniseed flavour from the fennel isn't too overpowering. You can also use 100% basil for this recipe, which is more traditional and utterly delicious.The pesto is then mixed with natural yogurt or crème fraîche and spread generously over the blind-baked pastry. Best served alongside a green, crunchy salad like a waldorf with braeburn apples (these will complement the brie nicely). Best eaten quite fresh but can be saved in the fridge for 1-2 days.
For the pesto (makes extra)
24g pine nuts
60g fennel fronds
40g basil leaves (or use 100g of basil and no fennel to make basil pesto)
1/2 lemon juiced
1/2 fat clove garlic, crushed
30g grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp sea salt
40ml olive oil (plus extra)
For the tart (Serves 6)
375g pack ready-rolled sheet all butter puff pastry
1/2 bunch of asparagus
3 tbsp crème fraîche or natural yogurt
1/2 small courgette, sliced thinly
120g (approx) of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
100g brie slices (you can use any cheese you have lying around)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
basil to serve (optional)
truffle oil for drizzling (optional)
Heat the oven to o 200°C/gas 6.
Place the cherry tomatoes in a bowl and add a little salt, pepper and olive oil to macerate them. This little trick will mean they will taste even better.
Start preparing your pesto (or you can be indulgent and use bought- you'll need 3 tbsp) Add the nuts, fennel fronds, basil, lemon juice, garlic and salt to a food processor. Add in half of the olive oil and pulse or blend until incorporated. Continue blending while slowly pouring in the rest of the olive oil and desired consistency is reached (you may need to add in a little more olive oil or water 1 tsp at a time if you prefer it thinner). Taste and add more seasoning/lemon juice as needed. Reserve 3 tbsp and store the rest in an airtight container/freezer bag in the fridge or freeze for later use (great for a quick pasta dish).
Unroll the pastry and place on a baking tray. Score a border around 2cm from the edge and prick inside the border with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden and puffed up, then remove from the oven and push down the centre of the tart.
Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and cool under cold running water (this will help the asparagus maintain it's vibrant green colour. You want the asparagus to still be slightly crunchy as it will continue cooking in the oven. Cut each spear in half length-ways.
In a bowl, mix the pesto with the crème fraîche/yogurt and season well. Spread this over the base of the pastry and top with the sliced courgettes, asparagus and tomatoes then top with the cheese. Brush the edge of the pastry with beaten egg, then return to the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the edges golden.
Drizzle with oil and scatter with basil leaves.