Tarragon, shallot and cheese tart
Filling and fresh all at once, a slice of this is my dream lunch. I use a mixture of herbs here, about three-quarters soft-flavoured herbs, such as parsley and coriander; the rest tarragon and dill, with their stronger tastes.
For the pastry
250g plain or light spelt flour
1 tsp salt
A few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves roughly chopped
125g butter, cold from the fridge
4-6 tbsp ice-cold water
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
2 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
3 large eggs
350ml milk (whole, soy, almond, oat – your choice)
Salt and black pepper
Nutmeg, for grating
150g hard cheese, grated (cheddar, gruyère, comté), plus extra for topping
3 large handfuls soft herbs (about 50g; I use a mixture of tarragon, dill, parsley and coriander), any harder stalks removed and roughly chopped
You can make the pastry either by hand or in a food processor. Start by mixing the flour, salt and thyme, then pulse in the processor or mix with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and either pulse or rub with your fingers until you have a rough breadcrumb consistency. Add the water, drop by drop, pulsing or mixing each time, until the mixture forms a dough. Shape into a disc, wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so.
Once the pastry is chilled, roll it out on a floured surface into a 3mm-thick large disc just wider than a 24cm, loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin. Roll the pastry on to a rolling pin and lay it over the tart tin. Push the pastry into the edges of the tinwith your fingers, then put back in the fridge .
Pop it into the fridge for another 10 minutes if you have the time. Heat the oven to 210C (190C fan)/gas 7.
Cover the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beans , rice or old dried beans to weigh it down. No need to trim the sides yet (I do this at the end, as that way you’ll be sure your pastry doesn’t shrink down). Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, lift out the beans and paper, brush the pastry with a little beaten egg and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. When it’s ready, take it out, and leave the oven on. Once cooled, trim the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife so you get a nice flat edge to your tart before you add the filling.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan, add the shallots and cook for eight to 10 minutes on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and sweet. Set aside to cool.
Break the eggs into a measuring jug and beat well. Pour in the milk, add a good pinch of salt and pepper, a grating of nutmeg (about a quarter of a seed) and the grated cheese, and mix.
Once the shallots are cool, fold them into the egg mixture, add the herbs and mix well. Put the tart tin on a baking tray (to catch any leaks), pour the filling into the blind-baked pastry case and level the top. Grate over a generous layer of cheese, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden and just set.
IMAGE: MATT RUSSELL