(Theguardian) – A good homemade tart is perfect summer eating, says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Over the next fortnight, I want to share my passion for a form of food that lends itself well to summer eating indoors and out, static and mobile. I’m talking tarts – savoury this week, sweet next – and I hope you’ll use the guiding principles to make up your own tarts.
First things first: pastry. The simple combo of flour, butter and enough liquid to bind, is straightforward enough, but the results can be magical or dire. The thought of making pastry can strike fear into the most competent cooks, so if that’s you, feel the fear and bake it anyway with my guide to the perfect pastry case.
With pastry, it’s a case of “cold hands, top tart”. The butter must be firm and cold (ideally, the flour should be cold, too). And work quickly, handling the mix as little as possible. A food processor is great for this, but fast fingertips work just as well. Add the liquid a bit at a time until the dough just comes together, then chill – this stops the butter from melting too quickly, and helps the shell hold its shape as it bakes.Advertisement
If your past attempts have been thwarted by soggy bottoms to your tarts, bake blind. Line a greased tart tin with pastry, prick the base with a fork and line with baking parchment or clingfilm. Fill with baking beads, uncooked rice or dried pulses, and bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Remove the lining, patch any cracks, glaze with egg yolk beaten with a little water and bake for five minutes more. Now you have the perfect foil for your filling.
Pea and lettuce tart
Serves four to six.
200g plain flour
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 generous pinch salt
Ice-cold water, about 3-4 tbsp
For the filling
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 little gem, finely shredded
100g peas (defrosted if frozen, lightly cooked if fresh)
2 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks
150ml double cream
150ml whole milk
20g hard goat’s cheese, grated
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Process the flour, butter and salt until like coarse breadcrumbs, add just enough water to bring it together into a soft dough, wrap in clingfilm and chill for two hours. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease a loose-bottomed 24cm flan tin and grate the pastry into it. Press evenly into the sides and base, and chill for 30 minutes. Blind bake as described left.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and gently sauté the onion until soft. Add the lettuce, cook for a minute to wilt, then add the peas and remove from heat. In a bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, cream and milk, add the contents of the pan, two-thirds of the cheese and mint, and season. Pour into the case, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and bake for 25 minutes, until the filling is just set and pastry golden.
Beetroot & goat’s cheese tart
Use the same tart shell as in the previous recipe. Serves four to six.
25g unsalted butter
3 red onions, halved and finely sliced
150ml red wine
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1½ tbsp honey
1 tbsp thyme, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g small beetroot, roasted, peeled and cut into wedges
2 tbsp dill, chopped
280g goat’s cheese log
I use a loose-bottomed Victoria sandwich tin to give me a deep tart 20cm in diameter and 5cm deep (for a thinner tart, use a 24cm diameter tin). Prepare and blind bake a pastry case as in previous recipe. Increase the oven temperature to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Warm the butter in a pan and gently fry the onions until soft. Add the wine, vinegar, honey, thyme, salt and a few grinds of pepper, stir, raise the heat and cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed and the mix is glossy; stir in the beetroot and dill, and season well. Cut the cheese into 1cm slices and lay a few on the base of the tart. Tip in the beetroot mix and put the rest of the cheese on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Strew dill fronds on top and serve warm.
Leek & gruyere tart
This easy rough-puff requires no blind baking. Serves four to six.
250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter, very cold,
cut into small cubes
1 good pinch salt
1 egg, plus one egg yolk
2-3 tbsp iced water
For the filling
8 thin leeks, washed and trimmed
80ml crème fraîche
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
100g Gruyère, grated
A few gratings of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly – you want little, pea-sized pieces of butter in the mix. Drop in the egg and yolk, pulse to combine, then turn out into a bowl and add the water a little at a time, stirring gently with your hands to bring it together into a ball – you may not need all the water. Put the dough on a floured surface and, with the heel of your hands, lightly stretch it out into a ragged rectangle. Fold it over in three sections, rather as you would a letter, and repeat four or five times. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least two hours.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the leeks in a pan that holds them lengthwise and poach in boiling water until very tender, eight to 10 minutes. Drain, refresh in iced water and dry well. Cool.
Whisk together the crème fraîche egg yolks, mustard, thyme, cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Roll out the pastry and use it to line a greased 30cm x 15cm rectangular tin (or a 24cm diameter round one). Chill for 15 minutes and trim. Lay in the leeks, spoon over the crème fraîche mix and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Serve at once.