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Leek, silverbeet and feta tart

October 20, 2010

Yellow, white and green seem to scream spring to me, and so does this tart despite its richness. My flatmate’s mother delivered around a bucketful (and I mean full) of home grown leeks and the most beautiful silverbeet (or swiss chard) I have ever seen. They were a bright spring green, juicy and tender, and crinkly in their distinctive way. Sadly I’m not actually a fan of silverbeet on its own, not even laced with heinous quantities of garlic, but pair it up with feta in a tart and I am totally on board. There is no bitterness at all, just pretty green flecks and good-for-you-bits.

The reaction from all the boys in the flat made me gush inside. On trying some myself, I realised they weren’t just being polite. The combination of flavours are just fantastic, and the texture is nice and moist, which is offset by a crispy, flaky herb crust. I’ll be honest, if you dislike a rather wet filling then this probably won’t be your thing, but having said that nothing oozes onto your plate. Serve them with some roast potatoes or crusty wholegrain bread for some real perfection. I whipped creme fraiche instead of cream into the eggs to firm things up a bit – thanks to a little inspiration from the leek tart in The New Zealand Vegetable Cookbook (p.200). Alternatively for a lower fat option you can use Greek yoghurt, according to The Barefoot Kitchen Witch. I cooked the leeks uncovered, letting the undersides go a little golden to encourage their natural sweet kick. Whatever you do, make the pastry from scratch – it’s easier than you think if you’ve never tried, I promise!

Leek, silverbeet and feta tart

Makes a 9-10″ tart, around 2″(5cm) thick

Flaky pie pastry

  • 50g butter, cubed
  • 1/4 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • optional: 1/2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1/2 c white flour (any white flour will be fine)
  • 1/2 c wholemeal/wholewheat flour
  • cold water (1/4c to start)

Using a pastry cutter or a fork, rub the butter, salt, flour and herbs together until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, although some lumps of butter in the mixture are ideal (no bigger than 1cm/1/2″). Add water and mix with a spoon or fork to bring it together. At first it will just be a shaggy mess. Now get your hands in there, and squeeze the bits together. You should feel a softish dough form, about the same toughness as play dough. If not, you may need to add more water – do this a teaspoon at a time, mixing a little after each addition. You want the bowl to be devoid of flour but the dough shouldn’t feel wet. Once the dough looks well incorporated, shape into a smooth ball and press to form a disc. Refrigerate while you prep the filling ingredients.

Filling

  • 2 medium leeks, scrubbed and outer green bits removed (save these for making home made bouillon), thinly sliced
  • about 5 packed cups roughly chopped silverbeet leaves (remove bottom half of stalks and chop upper stalks small). This seems a lot but will cook down substantially.
  • about 20ml oil and 20g butter for frying veges
  • 4 free range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 200g creme fraiche (or ricotta)
  • optional: generous pinch ground mustard or 1 tsp dijon/wholegrain mustard, and a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 200g feta, cubed then madly chopped

Once filling ingredients are prepped, preheat oven to 200C (400F) and arrange a rack in the centre.

Flour a working surface and your cold dough disc. Roll out to the width of your pan plus the length of the sides multiplied by two. Make sure you ease the circle off the working surface every now and then to make sure it’s not sticking. Dust with flour as required. If your tart pan doesn’t have a removable bottom, line with aluminium foil. Pop the pastry circle into your tart pan, fit snugly into the fluted (wavy bits) edges. Press off the very edge if you want a perfect edge. Place the pie shell in the freezer for ten minutes while you cook vegetables.

In a large heavy frypan, melt butter and oil on medium high heat and toss leeks in, poking them around onto an even layer. Let sizzle away, stirring occasionally, until softened but not yellowed in colour. Let sit on the heat for a minute or two untouched until the undersides of the leeks get golden brown flecks. Remove leeks from the pan to a plate, reserving some of the oil.

In the same pan, cook silverbeet in two batches on medium high heat, removing from the pan as soon as all the leaves are just wilted. Place on same plate as leeks. Set aside.

Place beans, rice or baking weights into your pastry shell lined with some baking paper or foil. Bake the tart shell for fifteen minutes. In that time, beat together the eggs, creme fraiche, mustard, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside. Do some dishes while the crust finished off.

Remove hot crust from oven. Scatter with leeks, silverbeet, and half the feta, mixing around carefully (so as not to create cracks in the crust). Drizzle over the egg mixture, prod the filling a little to let the egg mix get into all the nooks and crannies, and top with remaining feta. Return to oven for another 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Let sit on a rack to cool for about ten minutes before serving (this will ensure a cleaner cut). Take the time to treat yourself to a glass of wine if that’s your thing!

If roasting with potatoes, you can start those the first time you put the crust in (but put them on the top rack). Put the herbs in the last 15-20 minutes of cooking or they will burn and lose their lovely flavour.

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