Stephen has always had tarts on the menus at his restaurants, but this is a particular favourite. It contains a fair amount of cream, but that’s what makes it taste so good – he’s sorry but you can’t do a slimline version!
A general point about tarts – they’re much better made deep than shallow; you seem to get more depth of flavour and texture.
Serves 8 as a starter, 6 for a main course
For the tart pastry case
- 225g plain flour
- 150g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
- Pinch of salt
For the filling
- 2-3 leeks with their leaves still on (about 300g once thinly sliced)
- 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 50g butter
- 2 tsp chopped thyme
- 2 tsp chopped parsley
- 4 medium egg yolks + 1 whole egg
- 50g each of Gruyere and Cheddar cheese
- 40ml double cream
- Salt, pepper and nutmeg
You will need a deep flan tin or ring of 20cm (8 in) size and a baking sheet.
(Don’t use pottery or china quiche dishes as they don’t transmit the heat well.)
For the pastry case
- Put the flour, salt and butter into a food processor and pulse until breadcrumb consistency. Turn into a mixing bowl and add just enough water to bring the mixture together (between 4 and 6 tablespoons depending on the time of year. You tend to need less water in the summer.) Don’t overwork the mixture – handle it as lightly as possible.
- Roll out the pastry and line a 20cm (8in) flan tin or ring leaving the pastry overhanging the edges, Chill for 30 minutes in the freezer.
- Line the pastry case with a double layer of clingfilm, scatter with baking beans and bake for 15 minutes at 200°C/ Gas Mk6. Then remove the cling film and beans and return the tart to the oven to crisp up until it is lightly browned. Remove from oven and leave on a baking sheet
Completing the Tart
- Trim and wash the leeks to remove any grit and shred them finely. Heat the butter and cook the leeks and the slices onions for a few minutes (not too long as you are trying to keep the leeks green).
- Add the thyme and parsley and season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg. Leave to cool a little before adding half of each of the cheeses, the 4 yolks and the whole egg. Mix well with a wooden spoon and pour in the cream. Stir well and taste, adding a little extra seasoning if necessary.
- Carefully pour the mixture into the pastry case, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, then bake in a hot oven (200°C/ Gas Mk6 for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 180°C/ Gas Mk4 for another 10-15 minutes. If the tart is browning too much move it to the bottom of the oven. It doesn’t matter if it is still slightly wobbly when you remove it as it will firm up in the residual heat while you’re resting it.
- Rest the tart and then trim off the overhanging pastry above the rim of the flan tin. Remove the outside of the flan tin or ring and slice the tart with a serrated knife. Alternatively, for extra crisp pastry, return the tart to the oven for a few minutes before slicing.
You’re left with a fair number of egg whites from this recipe. Stephen recommends using them to make meringues!