Christmas is almost upon us and Laura is back to serve up a winter treat, A Winter’s Tart.
With the annual festivities creeping in, ’tis the season for indulgence, culinary or otherwise. A uncomplicated tart with simple flavour pairings is a manageable lunch for unexpected guests or a commendable party food offering. Equally it makes for a good lap-supper for an evening decking the halls and donning the tree to the reassuring lull of Phil Spector’s greatest.
The use of pre-made puff pastry is deemed almost unanimously acceptable now. While it’s fairly simple (and cheaper) to knock up a decent shortcrust at home, puff pastry is a long, laborious process which won’t necessarily produce a superior result. Unless you’re at catering college or proving yourself for a TV dinner party, buy the little box.
It’s worth noting however, that not all puff pastry is created equal. Choose the all-butter version. Some bought puff pastry is made with vegetable oil which can taste less than homemade, notably when cooled. Cheat right.
It really is worth taking time to do a few extra processes here. Puff pastry, particularly when used as a base, is notorious for producing a soggy, dense or under-cooked bottom. A little extra time spent controlling the moisture content and temperature of both the tart topping and pastry, combined with partially blind baking will ensure a delightfully flaky and crisp tart, without a soggy bottom in sight! Keep the faith.
Roast leek, Binham Blue & thyme tart
4 small/3 medium leeks
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tablespoon rapeseed/olive oil
1 sheet chilled all-butter puff pastry
100 grams Binham Blue (or other blue cheese)
1 egg, lightly whisked
A few sprigs of thyme. leaves picked
Sea salt & black pepper to season
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Place a baking tray in the oven while it comes to temperature.
Remove pastry from fridge, take out of packaging and allow to sit for ten minutes before using.
Trim the leeks and slice horizontally through the centre. Rinse well under running water, taking care to ensure all grit is dislodged between the layers. Pat dry and place in an oven dish. Add the garlic, brush with oil and season. Roast for 10-15 minutes until just softened then remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Meanwhile unroll the pastry, leaving it on the baking parchment included. Trim the sheet so it is a little longer than your leeks (don’t throw away those trimmings – pop them in the freezer for impromptu snacking. Defrosted and baked with with a little Parmesan, they’ll be good). Score a 1 cm border around the edge of your tart, ensuring not to slice through. Prick the pastry within the border all over with a fork. Crucially, place back in the fridge to re-chill for 10-15 minutes.
Once rested, remove the pastry from the fridge and bake blind for 5 minutes on the pre-heated oven tray. The pastry should be dry to touch and the top sealed, but not coloured.
Remove from the oven and lightly egg wash all over to seal the base and allow the border to colour. Add the cooled leeks (brush with a little more oil if dry) and crumble over the blue cheese and thyme.
Place back in the oven for the remaining ten minutes until the pastry is puffed, coloured and crisp and the leeks are fully softened and just charred.
Best served hot, but makes favourable leftovers when cooled.
Do remember that you can check out Laura’s Instagram for more inspiration.