A few weeks ago, B said that she wanted to try and perfect a vegetable tart. Second attempt in, she baked something really, really good. Perfection, of course, is relative, but this was everything we wanted, eaten cooled the next day as part of a very successful picnic. The greens cooked down into a soft, fresh tasting mass, the garlic came through really well, but without any harshness, and the feta and olives added savoury, salty depth. The only creative input from my side was the topping of pine nuts and parmesan to give a little extra something to a tart which was obviously already going to be pretty magnificent, if you like that kind of thing.
For the pastry:
50g butter, removed from the fridge for twenty minutes
110g plain flour, plus a little extra
Pinch of salt
Some cold water
For the filling:
2 baby leeks, tough green ends discarded, sliced into half moons
About 100g chard leaves (remove the stems to use in another recipe), roughly chopped
2 handfuls wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
About 12 kalamata olives, pitted and halved
100g feta cheese, half crumbled and half cubed (kept separate)
3 eggs, beaten
200g crème fraiche (we used half fat)
15g pine nuts
1 tbsp. oil
For the pastry:
First, make the pastry (you can do this a few hours in advance (or overnight) – just remember to remove from the fridge for about half an hour before rolling out.) From a good height, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes, and add the the flour. Mix a little with a knife, before starting to gently rub the butter in, using your fingertips. Lift it up as you rub, and drop it back into the bowl, ensuring that the air keeps getting incorporated into the mix.
When the pastry is just rubbed in (it’s ok if there’s the odd bit of crumbly lumps remaining), sprinkle over a tablespoon of cold water. Use a knife to bring the pastry mix together, the continue with your fingers. Keep adding water, little by little, until all of the dough has come together. Cover the pastry in cling film and let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes (if using straight away) or longer if you’re preparing in advance.
Remove the ball of pastry from the cling film, and flatten it out a little. Roll it out, using plenty of flour on your work surface and rolling pin, turning it often (and re-flouring when needed) to get a round shape. When the pastry is rolled out enough to fit your dish, lightly grease the dish and then enlist an extra pair of hands, if needs be, to help you lift it in (this is where I think I was most useful!) Gently ease the pastry in to the dish, carefully using your fingertips to tuck it into the edges. Trim any pastry that flops over the top, but leave a little extra in case it shrinks in the oven. Then, prick the pastry all over with a fork, brush with a little beaten egg (taken from the eggs you’ll be using for the filling) and bake in an oven preheated to 180ºC for about twenty minutes, until golden brown and a little crisp.
For the filling:
In a large saucepan, fry the leeks over a medium heat, stirring now and then, for about ten minutes. After this time, add the chard and the wild garlic leaves, and continue to cook down until everything has softened down well and released its moisture. Stir through the thyme leaves, then season well with pepper. Place a sieve over a bowl, and put the greens into the sieve, using the base of a small bowl to press all of the liquid out.
Next, add the beaten eggs to a medium bowl along with the crème fraiche and stir together. Add the drained greens, olives, and the crumbled feta, and stir until well mixed. Pour this over the blind-baked pastry, then evenly distribute and poke down the cubes of feta. Finally, grate over the parmesan and sprinkle over the pine nuts. Bake for about thirty minutes, until the filling has puffed up, turned golden, and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.