Courgette, Ricotta and Basil Tart with Spelt Shortcrust Pastry

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For our most recent SITTINGROOM (a curated poetry night hosted in a number of people’s houses) I made this quiche. One of my friends – and I believe a number of other people – find that while normal wheat disturbs their digestion, spelt flour is fine. Spelt makes excellent shortcrust pastry (so I found out) as well as cakes. I made this banana loaf last year using spelt flour and it worked really well. I was pleased with the filling, which had a lot of flavour and thanks to reading around on the subject – Delia Smith in particular – there was a perfectly crisp pastry base.

I used a Sainsbury’s rectangular tart case that is 4cm high, 30cm long and 20cm wide. A round one of similar size would be equally good, or two smaller things. It should be metal. If you don’t have a tart case – then a metal roasting tin of the right size is also fine.

In case the ordering of events is not clear – this is how to do it: 

1) Make the pastry

2) Chill it and while in the fridge, grate and salt the courgettes

3) fry the courgettes for 2 minutes and then blind bake the pastry while they cool down 

4) assemble the tart

Pastry

Ingredients:

8oz wholemeal spelt flour (or normal wheat wholemeal flour – or half wholemeal, half white)

5oz cold unsalted butter

a glass of very cold water

How to make shortcrust pastry:

** Pre-heat oven to 200c for blind baking **

Run your hands under cold water to make them as cold as possible. Sift or tip the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add in a good pinch of salt. Cut up the butter into small cubes and then using the TIPS of your fingers (the coolest part) and NOT your palms, rub the butter into the flour until it roughly resembles breadcrumbs. Bang the bowl on the surface top to make the larger lumps of butter rise to the surface and rub them in too. 

Slowly drip in cold water to the flour while stirring around with a metal knife or spoon. Don’t add too much at once. When it begins to form into large lumps try to bring it together into a ball using the tips of your fingers. If it falls apart add a little more water. Shape it into a ball and wrap in cling film and place in the fridge until needed, but for at least 20 minutes. 

How to BLIND BAKE so you don’t have a soggy bottom! 

You can still do this with shop bought pastry – thanks DELIA SMITH for the ideas on a crisp base

Remove pastry from the fridge. Roll out the pastry onto a floured surface using a rolling pin or if you don’t have one, a wine bottle works well… 

Try to make it roughly a similar shape as your baking tin, but larger so that it will go over the edge of the tin when in (it shrinks when baking). The pastry should be ½ cm thick at the most when rolled out.

Pick up the pastry onto the rolling pin by lifting one end of the pastry, lifting it over the pin and then rolling it up.

Unroll the pastry into the tin. Push it into the corners and plug any holes with pastry from the edges. DO NOT PANIC if it does not look perfect – it doesn’t matter – just make sure that it’s sealed and there are no holes. The pastry should overlap over the edges of the case a bit all the way round. 

Next, tear off a sheet of baking paper or tin foil and place into the centre of the pastry case so that it covers it – fill with dried beans or baking beans or metal cutlery so that the pastry doesn’t rise up.

Put the tart case onto a metal baking sheet or into a large metal roasting tin and bake for 15 minutes.

Then, remove the foil or baking paper CAREFULLY so you don’t burn yourself and return to the oven for 7/8 minutes.

Finally – glaze the inside of the tart case with a little beaten egg using a pastry brush or paint brush or just your fingers and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK you should now have a pastry case that will not go soggy when you add the filling in!

How to make the filling:

Ingredients:

3 mediums sized courgettes, grated

3 eggs

1 tub of ricotta (250g)

100g grated parmesan – or other cheese such as pecorino or grana padano

2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped up with a pinch of salt

a handful of fresh basil leaves torn up (or mint or parsley or chives)

100ml double cream

a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

How to make the whole tart and assemble:

Make your pastry and then put in the fridge

**While your pastry is in the fridge**

Place the grated courgettes in a colander with two big pinches of salt for 30 minutes to get out as much water as possible. Then place them in the centre of a clean tea towel, draw in the corners and squeeze out as much liquid as you can over the sink. 

**Meanwhile, blind bake your pastry**

then lower the oven temperature to 160C when it’s done.

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the garlic. Fry for a minute until fragrant then add in the courgette. Fry for only around 2 minutes until the courgette is well coated with the garlic flavour. Leave to go cold. 

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the eggs with the ricotta until smooth, add in the cream and ½ the grated parmesan, and the cold courgette mix and the fresh basil. Add in a bit of salt and a good grind of black pepper.

Pour the mix into the pre-baked pastry case and top with parmesan and a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg. Put the tart case the oven onto a metal baking tray and bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is set – check by pressing your finger lightly on the top of the tart – it should feel relatively firm and not like liquid lies beneath. 

Allow to cool and then remove from the baking tin by placing a large board or dish with a flat surface on top of the tart. Flip it over, then gently tap out the tart from its case. 

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