Make the tart shell:
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the flour and salt. Blend together. Cut the butter into 8 pieces and drop into bowl. Pulse repeatedly until butter and flour have become fine meal, with no big chunks. This takes about 1 minute. With motor running, add the water and keep blending until dough just starts to pull away from bowl and make a ball.
Remove dough from bowl, form into a ball and flatten ball on cutting board with your hand so that you have a round disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
To form tart crust:
Remove dough from refrigerator, remove plastic wrap and place on lightly floured board. Roll out crust with floured rolling pin. If crust starts sticking, add a little more flour to board or pin, but don’t over flour.
Have ready a 9-10” tart pan with removable bottom. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin so that it drapes over and can be lifted off the board and quickly drape over pan. Carefully fit dough into pan without stretching it. Fold excess dough over into pan to create a double thickness on the sides of the tart, cutting off excess dough on tart edge as you work. Prick bottom of crust with fork several times. Line the pan tightly with aluminum foil, wrapping foil around to bottom of pan and chill until ready to bake.
Make the Tart:
Preheat oven to 400°.
Snap or cut the ends off each asparagus spear, so that each one is about 5” long. Place in a large skillet with about ½” of water and cover. Bring to a boil and simmer until just tender (easily pierced with a fork). Drain and cool under running water. Set aside.
Remove pastry tart shell from the refrigerator and place in oven. Bake for 20 mins. with the foil on. Remove foil and bake another 5 mins. Allow to cool slightly.
Turn oven down to 375°.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with the ½ and ½. Add the Gruyere, nutmeg, pepper and mix well.
Arrange the cooled asparagus in the tart pan like spokes of a wheel with the flower end facing out.
Pour the egg/cheese mixture over the asparagus evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Cool 10 minutes before cutting into quarters or sixths.
Recipe by Jane O'Riordan