Spinach and cheese tart

In France, spinach and goat’s cheese is a classical combination. The “chèvre-épinards” can be declined in tarts, lasagne, layered savoury pastries (“feuilletés”), flans, muffins and much more. The combination is tested and widely approved.

But I  know that in the UK some people find the taste of goat’s cheese too strong (not me, I once ate a whole goat’s cheese log on my own and without a piece of bread. I know, I’m not proud of myself either), therefore I thought that using mozzarella instead would be a safe option, one that everyone would enjoy. And it is delicious indeed.

Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the goat’s cheese out… So I opted for a tart that is half topped with mozzarella and half with goat’s cheese. Genius, now people can chose what cheese they want!

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Spinach tart topped with goats cheese / mozzarella6

As usual, the recipe is very easy, hence perfect for a weekday dinner. It’s also ideal for picnics, barbecues, summer lunch, whenever.

INGREDIENTS

  • Puff pastry
  • 400 grams of fresh spinach
  • 70 grams of grated cheese (my mum would have used gruyère, but cheddar is just as good)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp of crème fraîche
  • For the topping: mozzarella and goat’s cheese (if you want to make it 50/50 like I did: 90 grams of goat’s cheese; 1 ball of mozzarella)
  • Salt and pepper

PUFF PASTRY

Ok, I’ll admit, I bought ready-made puff pastry because, as mentioned before, this was on a school night and I just didn’t have the time – nor will – to make pastry. Also, puff pastry is SO difficult that I don’t really bother, and the ones you buy are good so I don’t even feel bad about it. But if you want to make yours, here’s a good recipe!

Roll your pastry onto a lined tart/quiche/flan baking dish, pick with a fork, cover with baking paper and ceramic balls and blind bake for 10 minutes on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven (210C). After 5 minutes, remove the ceramic balls and top paper and put back in the oven until slightly golden and the pastry is almost fully cooked. Leave out to cool while you make the filling.

The reason we blind-bake the pastry fully is that spinach is a very wet vegetable, and if we were to put straight onto raw pastry, there’s a chance that the pastry wouldn’t cook thoroughly.

Spinach

FILLING

Cook your spinach covered in a large saucepan (no oil, no water) on very low heat. When raw, 400 grams looks like it’s loads. But by the time it’s cooked, you’ll think it’s a joke, there’s just enough left to cover the base of the tart. Once cooked, put the spinach in a colander and press it down to get as much water out as possible. If you don’t get the water out, the bottom of your tart will be soggy. And we don’t like soggy bottoms (Mary Berry, if you read this!)

Next, in a bowl, mix the creme fraîche, eggs, grated cheese, salt, pepper and whisk until all blended. Don’t hesitate to taste and season, and remember that the spinach have not been seasoned, so feel free to add a little more salt to the mix.

Spinach base

MOUNTING

In the pastry case, place all the spinach making sure it’s spread everywhere. Pour the eggy mixture on top, then top with thick slices of goat’s cheese and/or mozzarella.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and the cheese has melted.

Serve warm with a salad on the side. Bon appétit!

Spinach tart topped with goats cheese / mozzarella3

Slice of Spinach tart topped with goats cheese / mozzarella

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Fruit tart with crème pâtissière

First of all, please people, it is called crème pâtissière (pronounced /pa.ti.siehr/) and NOT crème pâtisserie! Hearing this always makes me cringe, because it doesn’t make sense and it sounds silly. It’s easy to remember, “pâtisserie” is a noun (that qualifies a pastry itself or the shop where you buy pastries) and “pâtissière” is the adjective that qualifies anything pastry-related. Here, we are specifying the type of the cream, hence we need to use the adjective. There, it’s said, let’s move on. No I’m not grumpy, I am just a grammar freak…

This fruit tart is a classical and all-time French favourite. It’s easy to make when you have friends visiting, especially as the crème pâtissière can be made the day before and keeps well in the fridge, and it’s sure to please everyone: all you have to do is pick their favourite fruit!

Strawberry and blackberry fruit tart

Strawberry and blackberry fruit tart

First, the pastry: normally for a fruit tart, you should use a sweet shortcrust pastry (90 grams softened butter, 65 grams caster sugar, 3 egg yolks, 200 grams plain flour) but I used a rough-puff instead this time (250 grams butter at room temperature but not softened, 250 grams plain flour, 150 ml cold water, 1 tsp sea salt). It worked ok, so I guess it’s really up to you! Line your tin, cover with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Blind bake the pastry for 10-15 minutes in a 190c pre-heated oven (until it’s cooked through but hasn’t turned  golden yet) and allow to cool.

While the baked pastry cools down, make the crème pâtissière. You need:

  • 250 ml full fat milk
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 60 grams caster sugar
  • 25 grams plain flour
  • optional: 2 tbsp kirsch

(1) Place the milk, vanilla seeds and pods into a large saucepan and warm through.

(2) In a mixing bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar and flour and whisk until mixture becomes pale.

(3) Gradually add the warm milk and vanilla to the egg mixture and, once well mixed together, return to the pan.

(4) Cook on a low heat, constantly whisking, until the mixture thickens and reaches the wanted consistency. You want it thick enough to be scooped with a spoon.

(5) As soon as it reaches the right consistency, pour the cream into a clean bowl and place a circle or greaseproof paper, or cling film, on top of the mixture, to prevent a skin forming at the surface.

(6) If you choose to add kirsch to your crème pâtissière, do it once it has cooled down completely.

Fruit is glazed with warm apricot jam

Fruit is glazed with warm apricot jam

We can now assemble the tart!

(1) Put 4 tbsp of apricot jam in a saucepan with a little bit of water and warm through until liquid. Carefully brush the inside of the pastry case (this will stop any leakage of cream or fruit juices through any small cracks).

(2) Spoon your crème pâtissière into the pastry case and make sure it is equally distributed around the tart.

(3) Top the cream with sliced fruit. Here, I used strawberries and blackberries, but you could also have kiwis, raspberries, blueberries, anything you fancy (see the other tart I made earlier this year). To give your tart a more ‘rustic’ look, just throw your fruit in. I am a bit OCDed so I always have to line my fruit perfectly, but there’s no rule here…

(4) With the rest of the warm apricot jam mix, lightly glaze the fruit. This will not only make your tart shiny and appetising, but it will also prevent any oxidation if you don’t eat it all on the same day. Clever stuff.

This is delicious with a cup of Earl Grey. Or, a sweet dessert wine…

A fruit tart I had made before, with a different selection of fruit.

A fruit tart I had made before, with a different selection of fruit.