Life is picking up pace after the leisurely months of lock-down. This week has included the monthly Open Sight cooking session https://youtu.be/jRIznF2wFAY plus our first substantial harvest of honey.
The dribbles extracted late last summer and earlier this Spring were simply the overtures to the symphony of delectable stickiness that pervaded every surface. The whole process had been pre-scripted and thought-through: honeycomb frames from the hives; removing the wax cell cappings; extracting honey in a sort of handraulic spin-dryer; filtering out odd bee legs, pollen and dust. Of course, the best laid plans and all that went awry, and every surface was sticky. Thank goodness for the vinegar advice following a recent icing sugar disaster: a couple of capfuls into the bucket for the fourth attempt to wash the floor worked.
Now we have a tank of glorious golden honey that has been settling for a couple of days. It is good enough to eat now but conditioning for 30 minutes at 62C will help maintain the runny consistency. The fabulous sous-vide water-bath is in action again. It is proving invaluable for basic cooking, making yoghurt and, now, getting the honey ready for jars. More of this saga next time.
Meanwhile, this is the savoury tart we blind cooks made together on-line recently. It has endless uses and combinations. I’ve slightly adapted the pastry from versions I learned in San Francisco and from the blessed Delia. It has my special methods for baking that suit a blind cook or anyone else.
110g butter, frozen, grated and re-frozen.
220g plain flour, chilled in the fridge overnight.
1 teaspoon salt.
a little cold water.
4 leeks, finely sliced and washed.
4 eggs, beaten.
2 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche.
Salt and pepper.
(To prepare the butter: freeze the block then coarsely grate before placing in a bag or box and re-freezing.)
Mix the frozen butter into the chilled flour and salt, breaking down the butter to about the size of a grain of rice.
Beat the egg in about the same volume of water and gradually mix into the flour mix, adding a little more water, until the pastry comes together.
Chill the pastry for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry and line a large loose-bottomed tart tin. Press the pastry into the corners and prick all over with a fork.
Line the pastry-filled tin with kitchen foil, pressing down in the corners and covering the edges.
Chill for 30 minutes.
Bake at 180C, Gas 4 for 12 minutes – this is “baking blind”.
Break the eggs for the filling into a bowl and beat.
Remove the foil, brush the base and internal sides of the pastry with some of the beaten egg and return to the oven for another 3 minutes.
Remove the pastry case and brush again with beaten egg. Ideally, allow to cool and rest for an hour.
Meanwhile, cook the leeks in the microwave until soft and allow to cool.
Beat the crème fraîche and seasoning into the eggs.
Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the leeks and place in tart
Place the whole tart tin on a large piece of kitchen foil.
Fill the tart with the egg mixture.
Fold the foil over the tart to make a loose tent and bake for at least 40 minutes until the centre is just setting. The foil catches any spills and protects the pastry from getting overcooked.
Allow to cool a little before serving warm.
This seems a long recipe but keeping some frozen and/or grated butter ready in the freezer makes it simple. I also make the pastry and freeze it for using later and even freeze the pre-cooked tart cases too. A little time on this preparation makes the final stages quick and easy.
There is no end to the fillings with the savoury custard but most need to be at least part-cooked e.g. mushrooms with the leeks; smoked salmon or trout with chopped dill and a spoonful of horseradish sauce; asparagus and chopped ham; courgettes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, black olives.
The pastry case has other potential: fill with cooked apple puree, top with slices of eating apple plus a dusting of sugar and butter knobs before returning to the oven for about 20 minutes.