Sunday 29 January 2012

Something borrowed.....

I have a dinner party for 70 to cook this week.  This is a Riverford Supper Club, so although not a vegetarian meal, it is all about showing off seasonal vegetables.  This month it is Jerusalem Artichokes, Leeks, Kale, Celeriac and Beetroot.  Unfortunately the Purple Sprouting Broccoli and the Cauliflower were struggling due to some cold weather down there in Devon. On the fruit front, it is a toss up between apples and pears.  

So anyway, for a starter, Leek and Parmesan Tart sprang to mind.  I already had a recipe in my head. Three egg yolks to half a pint of cream.  And then I wondered - where did that recipe come from, imprinted in my brain, along with hundreds of others.

In my day of being a chef there was a very simple family tree of restaurants and all young chefs were related to one strain or another.  There was Alistair Little's, Simon Hopkinson at Hilaire and then later on Bibendum, Rowley Leigh at Kensington PlaceSally Clark's or the relatively unknown River Cafe .  That was pretty much it.  All recipes came from either one of them or from Elizabeth David.  And even though I only survived one shift in the kitchen at Bibendum, I still know that my leek tart recipe has somehow trickled down from Simon Hopkinson, to me.

I have only very recently acquired the wonderful Roast Chicken and Other Stories,  although I bought it for my mother many years ago.  But as I said, I don't really need to really look up most of Simon Hopkinson's recipes, because I somehow know them already, but I decided to check and sure enough there it was, just as I remembered it, but with a bit of Tarragon thrown in.  My pasty recipe is his too.  Why?  Just because it always has been.

Leek and Parmesan Tart

For the leek tart filling you will need
110g good butter
8 leeks, trimmed, split lengthways, washed and thinly sliced (white part only)
Salt and pepper
4 egg yolks
450ml cream

Big handful of freshly grated parmesan
One 20.5 cm / 8 inch pastry case

For the pastry
110g of plain flour
50g butter
1 egg yolk
A pinch of salt

First make the pastry, add the butter to the flour and rub in. Add the egg yolk, the salt and enough water to form dough. I do it in the food-processor. Don't make it too dry as it will be very short and difficult to roll out.  However, you must be sure to make sure it is not too wet.  This will make it sticky and too elastic so it will shrink when baked. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible and use to line a 20.5cm / 8 inch tart or flan tin. Prick the bottom lightly with a fork, and bake blind in the oven for 15 minutes or until pale golden brown and cooked through. Meanwhile melt the butter in a large pan and add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly soggy. Then cook until all the juices have gone and the leeks begin to caramelise. It is taking time with this cooking which will make the tart so delicious.  It could take over an hour. Remove from the heat.  Beat together the egg yolks, cream and seasoning and add to the leeks. . Add the Parmesan.  
Stir well and taste the mix and make sure the seasoning is correct. Pour into the pastry case and bake for 20 / 30 minutes or until set and golden brown.  Serve warm if possible with a nice green salad.

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