Category Archives: Tarts

23rd December is the New Boxing Day: Christmas Entertaining.

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One day, when I am grown up, I will have my own house, my own kitchen and I will learn how to use my own oven. I can’t wait for the time I will be able to host my own Christmas dinner for friends and family. I have had a couple of practice runs, making Christmas roasts and all the trimmings with my housemates each December, but it won’t quite be on par with a grown-up roast until we are able to eat round a dining table. Sadly our student house is too small for a dining table, so we eat around the coffee table or on our laps.

At home, my mum is in charge of the Christmas dinner. That’s not to say she doesn’t appreciate a little help, but she runs the show, meaning I am stuck as the sous-chef, peeling 1000 spuds and chopping 2 tonnes of veg. There is not much room for my creativity, which means I get bored and often hand over my duties to our commis-chef (my dad).

This weekend I am cooking for a birthday party, which is conveniently placed very close to Christmas, so that I can stretch my legs and make something Christmassy of my own. I have long been deliberating what I should cook and have so far narrowed it down to a few favourite party recipes that I will adapt:

Paul Hollywood’s Turkey and Stuffing Chelsea Buns

Turkey, Stuffing and Cranberry Pies

Mini Vol-au-Vents with a Turkey and Stuffing Filling

Can you spot a theme?

These recipes would be great for using up leftovers and impressing people on Boxing Day. In fact, I know that is probably what they were intended for. But a birthday gathering on 23rd December is the new Boxing Day. So they say.

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Red Onion & Goat’s Cheese Tarts

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OK, I know, I cheated with the pastry. Sorry. But these are perfect for novice bakers who want to make something simple and home-made to impress. These will be a great offering to any festive buffet and they don’t take whole morning to prepare, which leaves plenty of time to concentrate on the piece-de-resistance (or enjoying a festive tipple).

Makes 25-30

Ingredients

1 x 500g pack puff pastry (or equivalent in rough-puff if you want to make your own)
4 small red onions, chopped
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp basil
60g goat’s cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 180*C.

Grease a cupcake tin with some butter and plain flour. Roll out your pastry to the thickness of a pound coin and cut to roughly 7cm circles. Place in the tin and prick the bottoms with a fork. Bake for around ten minutes but do not allow them to brown. Remove from the oven when cooked.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and fry in the oil it on a low heat for 2 minutes. When slightly softened, throw in the balsamic vinegar, sugar and herbs. Allow the sauce to reduce down and the onions should cook a little. Add in about 20mls of water and reduce again. The aim is to soften the onions but not brown them.

When cooked, add a teaspoon of onions to each pastry case. Crumble over a bit of goat’s cheese, brush the pastry with a little milk. Bake in the oven for around 8 minutes until the cheese is soft and a little golden brown.

Onion Tart

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Adapted from my new recipe book which I bought after visiting the RealFood Market in London. This would would work perfectly well with any number of combinations of cheese – go with your gut (or what’s in you fridge*).

I had 20 minutes spare in the morning so I made the pastry and left it in the fridge all day before making the filling. It’s a nice way of dividing up the cooking into more manageable chunks.

*or, like me, get one of your family members to pick up necessary ingredients on their way home from work!

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Pastry

200g plain flour
100g butter
2-3 tbsp water
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped

Filling

1 large white onion, sliced
1 large leek, sliced
handful of green beans, chopped
3 eggs
250ml cream
100g gruyére, grated
50g mature cheddar, grated
1-2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
several good spoons of savoury chutney
optional: 2 slices ham, sliced (or not if you want this to be vegetarian, though you’ll also be after some vegetarian cheese if that’s the case!)

Method

To make the pastry, sieve the flour (and a little salt) into a mixing bowl and add the butter in chunks. Use your fingers to make “breadcrumbs” before including the garlic and rosemary and several twists of black pepper.  Add the water a little at a time. (I always find it’s better to go slightly wetter with the pastry as too dry will lead to hard to work pastry that cracks easily). Use your hands to combine and knead for about a minute before wrapping in clingfilm and sticking in the fridge for at least half an hour.

When ready to make your tart heat your oven to 180oC/350oF/gas mark 4, roll out your pastry on a floured surface and stick into a deep flan dish (or if you don’t have one, two shallower dishes!). Prick the bottom several times with a fork to allow steam to escape, cover with baking paper and beads if you have them (rice works equally well) and bake for approximately 20 minutes until starting to golden.

Meanwhile, heat a good spoonful of butter in a saucepan and chuck in your leeks. Sweat over a medium heat for 5 minutes before adding the onion and green beans and sweating for a further 5-10 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and  reduce the heat to a simmer. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl, stir in the cream, a pinch of salt, plenty of pepper the mustard and 2/3 the grated cheese.

When the pastry case is golden, remove from the oven and spread the base with your chutney of choice. Layer over the onion/leek/bean melange (oohlala) then pour over the cream mixture. Apparently if there’s not enough liquid you should add cream rather than egg as more egg will make it too eggy. Makes sense, really. Scatter the top with the remaining cheese. Set the oven to 200oC/400oF/gas mark 6 and whack back in for 25 minutes. Scatter the top with ham and stick back in for 10-15 minutes, until golden on top.

Remove, serve with salad on a hot summer’s day (or a mediocre autumnal evening). Either way it’ll taste de-lish.

J