Art of the Tart

This is a rough and simple tart; not as refined as a quiche. The addition of egg to the pastry makes it remarkably forgiving. No blind baking, rolling, or faffing required.

For my 10″ diameter, 1½” deep pie dish, I use:

  • 220g plain flour
  • 110g butter, cold and cut up into small cubes
  • pinch salt
  • one egg
  • some milk

In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour and salt until the consistency of breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and mix it in with a palette knife, or failing that, a spoon. You may be able to coax it into a ball with your hands, but more than likely you’ll need to mix in a tablespoon of milk; maybe more. Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

The basis of the filling is three eggs and 250mL double cream. For a richer consistency, you can replace one egg with two yolks. This produces a fluffy, but set consistency, for a more wobbly version, increase the cream.

Today, I’ve got some pancetta (10 wafer thin rashers, about 70g) so I fry that gently until crisp, and set aside. No need to drain on paper towels, as the fat is flavoured with the spices in the cure, and we want it to infuse the rest of the filling.

Push the pastry into the pie dish with your hands. (I don’t need to butter my ceramic dish, your mileage may vary.) You could roll it, but there’s really no need. If it tears, just patch it. If you end up with more on one side of the dish than the other, just rip some off and patch. As I said, it forgives much, although if you work it too hard, and it’s a hot day, the butter will start to melt, so whack it back in the fridge if this happens.

Today I spread the pancetta in the bottom of the pastry case, and beat together the remaining ingredients, with some salt, pepper, nutmeg, and some grated grana. Any kind of Italian hard cheese will do.

Into the oven at 150°C for an hour. The case looks underfull.

…and then the filling puffs up, alarmingly…

…before relaxing at the end. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn. You’ll see that the pastry shrinks away from the sides of the dish, so easy to rescue.

Variations

This is only the beginning. You could:

  • peel and slice 750g of brown onions, and gently gently gently fry them in butter for an hour or so, with salt, pepper, and maybe a clove – allow to cool and pour over the cream/eggs
  • do the same with some leeks, and add some goat’s cheese to the mix
  • replace the goat’s cheese with some salmon, smoked or otherwise
  • add some steamed (and vigorously squeezed) spinach to the fray

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