I’m naturally quite a lazy cook and that’s why in the past – and still – some things I attempt don’t turn out that well. I have a tendency to skip over instructions in recipes thinking “It’ll be fine, I’ll just ignore that bit”. Take ‘baking blind’ (filling a pastry lined tart tin with dried beans or similar to weigh it down and then pre-cooking it to prevent a soggy base), something I have never, ever bothered with, hence my brief and unsuccessful history of soggy bottomed, good for nothing tarts. The irony is that baking blind isn’t hard, but it requires some effort. This tart has been baked blind, but only after an attempt to do it without baking blind first (I’m so persistent in my laziness!). The pastry case bubbled up a lot, so blind baking is definitely necessary.
The parmesan pastry part I tore from a magazine a few weeks’ back (I honestly can’t remember whose recipe it was), the rest is my own creation, inspired though by a delicious vegetarian tart recipe in Hugh Fearnley Whittenstall’s Veg Every Day! cookbook, which I am dipping in and out of constantly at the moment. I am currently undergoing a meat free weekend after an awful Chinese takeaway last night that featured several disappointing meat dishes. It’s no hardship though; maybe it’s my pregnancy but my body is craving a wide variety of veggies at the moment, and what baby wants, baby gets! Anyway, back to the tart…
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 55 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
For the parmesan pastry:
125g butter (ideally straight from the fridge)
190g plain flour
50ml cold tap water
For the filling:
1 large leek, sliced quite thinly (about 1 cm)
1 bunch of spring onions, about 12, again sliced quite thinly
250ml double cream
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
150g lancashire cheese (I used a creamy lancashire, you could use a crumbly one or even a goats’ cheese)
About a tablespoon of fresh chives, snipped
Salt and pepper
- Cut the cold butter into rough cube-like shapes, toss into the flour and, either using your hands or with a blender, rub the fat into the flour / whizz until it is breadcrumb like. Thrown in your grated parmesan and stir. Add your water and bring your pastry together, handling it as little as possible. Cling it and let it sit in the fridge for at least half an hour. You could make it ahead and freeze.
- Pre heat your oven to about 225 C. Grease a 25cm tart tin.
- Roll your pastry out so it’s bigger than the tin size, and about 1/4 cm thick or so. Place in the tin and press down into the corners. Let the excess pastry hang over the sides but rough trim it so only about a couple of centimetres hang over. Prick the base a few times with a fork and line with foil, which again should be hanging over the edges roughly. I used a whole bag of lentils (as I had no dried or proper metal baking beans) to tip into the tart tin, weighing the foil down, and it worked fine. Cook the tart case like this for 15 minutes.
- Once it’s done, empty the lentils, peel off the foil carefully and leave to sit aside, in its tin still, whilst you get the filling done. (I could’ve even used the lentils again afterwards, if Adam hadn’t hastened them to his mistress in the garden, the anabolic composter!) When the case has cooled a little bit, using a sharp knife take the extraneous pastry off (around the edges). Turn your oven down to 180C.
- Fry off your leeks and spring onions on a gentle heat with a generous knob of butter until they’ve sweated down and are pretty much thoroughly cooked. I did it for about 20 minutes.
- Whisk together your eggs, cream, milk, chives, and season. Arrange your leeks and spring onions so they are evenly spread over your tart case.
- Grate or crumble your Lancashire cheese and sprinkle on top of vegetable mixture, then tip your liquid mix over. It should fill to the top almost. Cook at 180C for 40 minutes. This tart is best eaten warm after standing for a while.