As I write this, the sun is shining softly through my open kitchen windows. I can hear birdsong and, in the far distance, the hum of the first grass cutting. Can it be that this long winter is finally receding into history? I am so ready for the brightness of spring and this is evident in my weekly changing menu at The School House Gallery which always features the sun-drenched flavours of the Mediterranean. Last week’s Provençal menu was inspired by my sweet mama who, when I was just four years old, took me to St Tropez and filled my heart with flowers, glamour and wanderlust. This golden baked omelette is one of her favourites, filled with spring asparagus, lemon-baked ricotta, nutty Gruyère, buttery shallots, French tarragon and chives. It’s always made with love. The lemon-baked ricotta is one of my favourite things in all the world; it’s so easy to make and makes a beautiful topping for pasta dishes and punchy chillies. You’ll have a bit left over from this recipe so go for it!
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Extra-virgin olive oil
A knob of butter
4 banana shallots, finely chopped
1 bunch of spring asparagus
8 large free-range eggs
1 tbsp plain flour
Half tsp of baking powder
100g Le Cret Gruyère cheese, finely grated
2 tbsp of fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tsp of dried French tarragon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
Heat an oven to 180C and lightly butter a shallow 10-inch pie dish.
Line an ovenproof dish with a square of baking parchment and turn out the ricotta cheese onto it. With the back of a spoon, smash it down a little to broaden the surface area, drizzle with olive oil and half the lemon juice, scatter over the lemon zest, salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a lidded frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil and butter (if using). When the butter has melted, add the shallots, turn down the heat and allow them to gently sweat down for 10 minutes.
Whilst all that is going on, carefully cut off the tips of the asparagus and set aside. Finely slice the remaining spears and, when the shallots are done, add them to the pan. Leave them to slow fry for around five minutes and then remove from the heat.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, the flour and the baking powder. Stir in the onion mixture, half the baked ricotta and the Gruyère cheese. Add the herbs and season to your taste.
Pour the mixture into the buttered pie dish and decorate with the reserved asparagus tips.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, turning around once half way through. Allow to cool slightly before turning out on to a plate. Serve just warm or at room temperature.
The remaining half of the lemon-baked ricotta can be kept in the fridge for up to two days. Add a generous spoonful to pasta dishes, or simply pile it onto lightly toasted sourdough.