A savoury shortcrust tart with caramelised leek slices seasoned with fragrant thyme, piled high on a layer of grated cheese. Glorious.
Leeks for ever
I could eat leeks every day. Braised slowly until meltingly tender or sharply stir-fried, or even raw, thinly sliced in a wonderful slaw.
They go marvellously with green herbs: chives, dill or tarragon, and best of all, seasonal in spring wild garlic. But ordinary garlic will season your dish of leeks just as nicely.
The Welsh clearly know what they are doing, having picked leek as their national emblem.
It was apparently worn by the 7th century king Cadwaladr’s men so they could be told apart from the enemy in battle. I hope they all got back home safely and cooked the leeks in a nice cawl.
The only problem is the smell. There is no two ways about the fact leeks are quite pungent, when sliced and sitting around in the kitchen or when cooked. Like onions, only not quite as bad.
The first chef/recipe author/person who comes up with an idea how to neutralise the allium smell should be worth a fortune.
Who knew alliums were related to asparagus? At least the latter smell only as an after-effect, and nice, too.
Shortcrust made or bought
I know, I know: making pastry from scratch just for one dinner? It’s a bit excessive.
Unless there is going to be a tart feast or a tart party, or you’re going to make a big batch of pastry this time and freeze portions for subsequent occasions, it is hassle.
I usually make this type of dish when I have a ball of shortcrust pastry in the freezer, left over from a major pie exercise. Alternatively, use a shop bought shortcrust pastry sheet or even a pastry case.
If you do go ahead with making the crust from scratch, this is a really good recipe sourced from Nigella Lawson, which will serve you well on many occasions.
Nigella makes it in a food processor but my view is that it isn’t worth the washing up: making the pastry by hand is really easy. Just rub the butter into the dry ingredients, then use a knife to stir the egg mix in and then gather the dough in and knead it briefly into a ball.
Pastry needs relaxing in the fridge so it can be rolled out without crumbling. But to be able to roll it out easily, it needs to thaw at least a little again. Counterproductive and counterintuitive, I know, but that’s how it works with shortcrust.
Some things need to be taken for granted, as I’ve learned over time.
Preparing the leeks for the filling is really simple. Trimmed and cleaned, they need to be sliced quite thickly – at least I like them chunky.
They will caramelise beautifully in a large frying pan over high heat, in a mix of oil and butter, helped along with a sprinkling of brown sugar.
Seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and lots of thyme leaves stripped off fresh sprigs, they should still retain some bite so don’t cook them to a mush.
If you let them cool down before piling into the tart case, they won’t make the pastry soggy.
Savoury tarts for ever
A layer of grated cheese will additionally protect the tart base from soggy bottoms.
You can be generous with the cheese, more than the recipe here states, depending on how rich you want the end product to be.
Ditto for adding some blue cheese dollops on top of the leek filling: more is always more, you know. Especially when it comes to cheese.
The tart will bake in about half an hour and it can be served warm or cold, cut into wedges.
And it’s worth leaving some thinly sliced fronds of the greenest part of the leeks, for a vibrant sprinkle before serving.
More leek recipes
Chunky leek and potato soup recipe. This leek and potato soup is not blended and it has only a couple spoonfuls of cream added, which can be skipped altogether if desired.
Creamy leeks sautéed with wild garlic. Wild garlic a.k.a. bear’s garlic or ramsons turns up in April in woody, wet, marshy lands and down in the overgrown part of my garden.
Creamy chicken with mushrooms and leeks is my favourite easy dinner - chicken pieces are cooked in creamy sauce, with caramelised chopped leeks and mushrooms. Serve on its own or with plain pasta.
More tart and pie recipes
Tomato crostata with honey and thyme flavour on flaky pastry made from scratch, with a sneaky cheese addition. Crostata or galette is a sweet or savoury open, rustic pie.
Chicken and mushroom pie with homemade Cheddar crust. Shortcrust pastry made from scratch, creamy chicken and wild mushroom filling, it’s not a very quick recipe but super tasty.
Beetroot greens and garlic tart, a great recipe to use up beet leaves. Cook them like spinach or chard to make a tart filling on the zinged up pizza base. Easy and unusual vegetarian tart recipe with beetroot leaves.