Saturday, March 18, 2017

Leek Tart - a case for poireaux!

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I am the picnic’s most dedicated fan. I’ve been known to picnic in rain and snow. The weather doesn’t matter so long as I have a beautiful view, a dry place to sit and something delicious to eat.
A leek tart is perfect picnic food!
Excellent picnics have included:
·                    Glendalough in Co. Wicklow – bypass ‘picnic central’ near the car parks... try not to get distracted by picnic envy... there’s a thousand wonderful meals covering the wooden outdoor tables and spicy barbeque aromas rise into the air to tantalise... keep walking... find spot near lake... lay out picnic blanket. Eat, relax, sigh, and think “heaven!”
An unexpected companion at a recent picnic...

·                    Sittin' on the dock of the bay / Watching the tide roll away”, feet dangling in the water at the edge of Sausalito, with the obligatory ‘Californian’ on rye from a nearby Deli, a Coke and a smile.
Not a great day for a picnic but pretty view of Dalkey Island from Killiney Beach

·                    Hardboiled eggs washed down with red lemonade on Killiney beach, Co. Dublin, following a swim in cold, cold water with a view to rival the bay of Naples.
The best picnics are those shared. I wait with eager anticipation as the treasures concealed by picnic baskets are finally revealed and laid out on table or blanket ready to be handed around.
My favourite picnic items – apart from the obligatory nostalgia of hardboiled eggs dipped in sea salt – are pies and tarts. Sweet or savoury, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they are simple and tasty - like this leek tart – or Tarte aux Poireaux if you want to get fancy. Crumbly pastry, rich savoury filling, great company - sunshine is optional. Buy decent ready-made pastry for even less effort, however the pastry given below is very well-behaved so even if you are a pastry virgin why not give it a whirl.
For 4 tarts you will need:
Shortcrust Pastry
110g plain flour
a pinch of salt
½ teaspoon paprika
75g butter
1 egg yolk
a little iced water

1                    Place the flour, salt, paprika and butter in a food mixer or processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
2                    Add the egg yolk and as much iced water – a tablespoonful at a time - as it takes to bring the mixture together into a soft (but not sticky) ball of pastry.
3                    Flatten the pastry into a disc, cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.
Luscious leek filling
50g butter
450g finely shredded chopped leeks
4 egg yolks
200g crème fraiche or 200ml fresh cream
50g Gruyere cheese
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
a further 25g Gruyere cheese for sprinkling over the top

1                    Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a gentle heat. Add in the shredded chopped leeks. Stir to coat the leeks in the melted butter, then cover and leave to cook without colouring for about 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the leeks are meltingly tender, take them off the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.
2                    Meanwhile mix together the egg yolks, the crème fraiche or fresh cream, 50g Gruyere cheese and sprinkle in the salt and pepper.
3                    Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
4                    Roll out the pastry to approximately the thickness of a 20c coin (GB 2p coin/USA 5c coin) and use to line 4 mini-quiche dishes or flan tins.
5                    Now add the eggy cheesy mixture to the cooled leeks, mixing well.
6                    Spoon the mixture into the pastry cases and sprinkle with the remaining 25g Gruyere.
7                    Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until the mixture is light golden brown and the cheese has melted.
That’s tonight’s supper for two sorted! It’s going to be served warm with a green salad. The remaining two tarts will accompany me on a picnic tomorrow – even better served cold somewhere the view will add a little alchemy of its own.
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