Checkerboard TartsPosted: June 7, 2019
This recipe is all about simplicity, and enjoying the delicate flavours of two of my favourite vegetables: beautiful florets of cauliflower and broccoli nestled in crisp shortcrust pastry, delicately seasoned with a light and creamy egg custard.
Underneath the eye-catching exterior, it is a broccoli and cauliflower quiche, but with a slightly different approach and a few minutes devoted to presentation, it can be quite the showstopper.
The pastry base is baked completely, for maximum crispness, the creamy egg filling is poured in and the briefly blanched vegetables are then arranged in a delightful checkerboard pattern. Covering the whole with a tight seal of foil allows the vegetables to cook to al-dente perfection while the custard sets, without becoming discoloured from the heat of the oven. The vegetable stalks, nestled in the creamy filling, cook through perfectly, and the florets gently steam in the resulting moisture, retaining their bright colour.
It can be served warm or cold, as an accompaniment or a side dish. It slices beautifully and thus can be enjoyed as an an usual addition to a picnic hamper.
Best of all, although possibly not for those of you who love the rigid formality of recipes, it can be made in whatever size and shape you like. Originally, I only planned the large size, but in trimming the florets to even sizes, found myself with numerous smaller, but still perfectly-formed florets, and so made smaller tarts, and even tiny individual ones too.
The only limit is how prepared you are for the sometimes fiddly process of arranging the florets. My solution for minimising the Faff™ is to, in the first instance, arrange the florets in the empty pastry case, then remove them in rows and lay them neatly in order to one side, add the filling to the tart case, then lift the florets back into position in rows. Should you have a mishap, and one or more of your florets tumble into the filling, take a moment to rinse off the egg mixture otherwise the overall effect will be spoiled.
A mentioned above, the main enjoyment comes from the delicate flavours, but you could also add other ingredients to the filling, if you’d like to turn up the taste volume.
The quantities are, to a large extent, dictated by the size and number of tarts you want to make. The unused vegetables can be stored in the fridge for several days and then steamed for a just five minutes before serving as accompaniments to other meals. Be sure to get the freshest, whitest cauliflower and the firmest, crispest broccoli (the florets should not move when you poke them) for maximum colour and visual impact.
1-2 fresh, white cauliflower
2-3 large florets of broccoli
shortcrust pastry – I prefer my cornflour shortcrust.
egg-white for glazing
500ml low-fat crème fraiche
2 large eggs
salt and pepper
- Cut the vegetables into large florets and steam for five minutes over boiling water.
- Put a clean cloth on a baking tray and lay the vegetables on top to cool. Set aside until required.
- Prepare the baking tin. For the large tart I used a deep spring-form tin and laid the pastry only half-way up the sides. The vegetables also sat neatly inside the sides of the tin. For shallower tins, the vegetables will sit a little higher.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Roll the pastry out to a thickness of 5mm and line your baking tin. Trim the sides to a height of about 3cm. Poke holes in the bottom to let out the steam, using a fork.
- Line the tin with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the parchment/beads/rice and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes until cooked through.
- Whisk the egg-white until frothy, then use a pastry brush to ‘paint’ the inside of the tart with it thoroughly.
- Return the tart case to the oven for two minutes to cook the egg-white. Set aside to cool.
- Reduce the oven heat to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
- Trim the vegetables to florets of even sizes of about 5cm. The exact size will be dictated by the size/shape of your tin. You want them to fit snugly together, to hold their shape.
- Once the pastry case has cooled, arrange the florets in a pattern until it is full, to ensure you have sufficient florets prepared. You will probably need to trim the stalks to no longer than 3cm.
- When your tart is full, carefully remove the florets and set them aside in rows, so they can easily be returned to the tart once the filling is added.
- Whisk together the crème fraiche and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. If the tart is to be eaten cold, be generous with the seasoning, as flavours will be slightly muted when chilled.
- Pour the filling into the pastry case to within 5mm of the top of the pastry. Arrange the blanched vegetables back into place.
- Cover the tin tightly with foil and bake until the filling is set. For a large tin, this will be about 45 minutes, smaller tins around 35 minutes and mini tins 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin(s).