24.7.13

How to Make a Savoury Tart


I call them tarts, others say flan, some say quiche. Whatever you call it a pastry shell filled with a few savoury ingredients and a mixture of cream and eggs makes a very good meal.

This is the  Basic Formula for an 8 inch (20cm) Tart which will amply feed four

short crust pastry made with 8 oz plain flour, 4 oz fat and about 2-3 tablespoons of cold water baked blind in a tart tin for 15 mins at 200°c (180°c fan) 
+
a selection of cooked vegetables, bacon, ham, chicken, smoked fish, cheese 
+
half a pint (or 300ml) cream and 2 or 3 eggs

Baked for 30-40 minutes at 180°c (160°c fan)

The Pastry

It's a matter of personal choice what fat you use for your pastry. I like half butter and half lard -butter for flavour, lard for shortness.

For my family I make 10 inch tarts and increase the pastry quantities to 10 oz flour and 5 oz fat.
Just remember that you need twice as much flour as fat and you'll be able to make as little or as much pastry as you want. Extra pastry can be frozen or made into jam tarts, little savoury tarts or pasties.

I make my pastry in the food processor blending the fat and flour for about 20 seconds until breadcrumby. Then I add water through the funnel while the machine is running until it forms a ball. Pastry should really be rested in the fridge for about 20 minutes before rolling to make it easier to manage. I'm too impatient for that and roll it straight away. If it cracks and tears I patch it up with spare bits of pastry. I roll it round my rolling pin and transfer it to my tart tin easing it gently down the sides so that it doesn't stretch too much. Then I rest it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

A word about tart tins.
Tart tins do not have to be fluted nor do they have to be round, but they must be metal or your pastry will not crisp.

Next bake the tart shell blind, that is, without filling so that the pastry sets preventing the finished tart becoming a soggy mess.To do this prick the bottom all over with a fork before lining it with a piece of foil and pouring baking beans (or dried beans or coins) in to stop the pastry from rising up in the oven. 
Bake for 15 minutes at 200°c (180° fan oven). While it is in the oven you can start preparing the filling.





Fillings

Now the creative bit. All sorts of things can go in a tart. I usually choose two things plus some cheese. Simply scatter your ingredients in the tart shell and sprinkle the cheese on top.

Meat and fish
cooked bacon, ham, cold cooked sausages, cooked chicken or turkey, cooked or tinned salmon, tuna, smoked haddock, kippers, smoked salmon or mackerel.

Vegetables
courgette, mushroom, peppers, onions, leeks. Cook these first in butter or olive oil.
asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, sweetcorn, peas. Steam or boil first.
tomatoes

Cheese
Any cheese is excellent in a tart (apart from cottage cheese which really isn't excellent in anything). Cheese is by no means mandatory but it is good.

Good combinations

bacon, sweetcorn and cheddar
onion and gruyère
tomato and goat's cheese
cauliflower and stilton (walnuts would be a good addition)
sweetcorn and ham
leek and bacon
mushroom and ham
chicken and sweetcorn
smoked haddock and parmesan
salmon and asparagus
sausage and leek
smoked salmon and cream cheese
courgette, pepper and feta


Above bacon and sweetcorn, below courgette and ham. Both had double Gloucester with chives sprinkled on top.


The custard

Half a pint or 300ml of cream plus 2 or 3 eggs will set an 8 inch tart to good consistency. For a 10 inch tart I use 3 eggs and 350ml of cream. You can add a couple more eggs if you like for a thicker and firmer filling. Precise quantities are not critical.

You can use single or double cream. I invariably use half double cream and half milk. You can also use a mix of crème fraîche or yogurt and milk. In a pinch you can use all milk although I'd recommend whole milk.

Beat the eggs and cream together with a fork in a jug, season with black pepper and a little salt bearing in mind how much salty bacon, ham or cheese you have used. Add some chopped herbs too if you like, I have used chives in the picture below.

Pour the cream and eggs carefully into the tarts. It may be best to set the tart of a baking sheet on the oven shelf first to do this so that you don't have to lift the liquid-filled tart into the oven. Don't over-fill your tart, you want it to be about half a centimetre below the top of the pastry.




Bake for 30- 40 minutes until firm and golden at 180°c (160°c fan).
Tarts are best eaten warm or at room temperature. They are hard to cut and serve when very hot.

What is your favourite tart or quiche filling?


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