shortcrust pastry

Goats cheese, parmesan, leek and thyme tart

I first made this tart (or quiche, though I have noticed that men don’t like eating quiches, though they don’t mind tarts!) for a ‘plein air’ day at my landscape painting class. It was a huge success, and I had to print out twelve copies of the recipe. It appears below exactly as I typed it. The cheese references are for the people who hadn’t a clue what goat’s cheese was and firmly believed that Parmesan was smelly grated cheese that came in a green shaker!

1 x savoury shortcrust pastry base, frozen then baked blind in a 25cm diameter x 3.5cm deep flan tin with a removable base or a pate brisee base.

6 medium sized leeks, well washed and finely sliced (white part only)
A little butter
1 tablespoon light olive oil
1 round goats’ cheese (125g) *
150g good Parmesan cheese, grated **
A good handful of fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
6 – 7 eggs
1 ½ cups (375ml) pouring cream
A little freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-based frying pan until the butter sizzles. Reduce heat and add the finely sliced leeks. Stir so that they don’t catch and continue to cook until leeks are transparent and tender. Remove from heat and place in a colander or sieve to drain well.

Preheat the oven to 200C, or a little hotter.

Sprinkle about one third of the Parmesan cheese evenly onto the tart base, then add the leeks, making sure they cover the base, right to the edges. Add some of the thyme leaves.

Slice or crumble (depending its consistency  – see note below) the goats’ cheese and distribute it evenly, then top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and the remaining thyme.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Break 6 of the eggs into a bowl and beat until an even consistency. Add a scant 1¼

cups of cream and beat together lightly. (Hold the remaining egg and cream until you know if you need them.) Add a little freshly grated nutmeg, then pour the mixture carefully into the tart, taking care not to overfill. If you don’t have enough egg/cream mixture, beat together the remaining egg and cream and add.

Place the tart tin onto a baking tray. (This will make it easier to remove without accidentally pushing the base of the tin up and so breaking the hot tart. It will also prevent any of the egg and cream mixture that might leak from ending up on the floor of your oven.)

Bake at 200C for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top is a nice golden colour or the quiche is set.

Before you begin: Pastry – a what’s what

I was sitting down having a cup of coffee and discussing recipes with Elly Hartland recently, when she asked me if I had made Philip Johnson’s goat’s cheese and leek pie. I asked her what was so special about it. “The pastry,” she said, “is so different. It isn’t a shortcrust pastry. It is an olive oil pastry. It’s flaky.”

“Pate brisee,” I thought, my heart dropping to my shoes, “uses olive oil.” I use it all the time and have always called it shortcrust pastry. But of course, it isn’t really shortcrust pastry at all! All those recipes are wrong!

Well, as it turned out, the goat’s cheese pie pastry isn’t even pate brisee; it is made entirely with olive oil and I don’t care for it much at all. But I was left with the fact that pate brisee is not shortcrust pastry.

Way back when you were all in kindergarten or pre-school, Simone Beck came to Brisbane for a series of cooking demonstrations and to promote her book ‘Simca’s Cuisine’. Simone Beck is best known, not for ‘Simca’s Cuisine’, but for co-authoring that two volume bible ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. We were all very aware of her legendary importance in the world of haute cuisine and were suitably riveted. She made mushroom tartlets (Quichettes aux champignons).  They were delicious and became my stand-by recipe for many years, as you can see if you look at the state of p232 of ‘Simca’s Cuisine’. Pate brisee “A”, she grandly informed us, and Pate brisee “B”, are to be used for ALL savoury dishes. Obediently, I complied. Pate brisee “A” was fine by me; I have never tried “B”, which substitutes white wine for the water and a whole egg for the egg yolk. Perhaps I should.  She says the wine creates an interesting saveur.

Naturally, I then abandoned Nanya’s sweet shortcrust pastry for Simone Beck’s Pate sucree.

The funny thing about that day is that I swear Elly was with me. Obviously I was more impressed than she was!

Well, I have altered all those recipes, or I think I have.  Fortunately dessert tarts weren’t affected. Where, in savoury tarts, pies or quiches it once said ‘Shortcrust pastry’, it now should read ‘Pate brisee, shortcrust pastry or sour cream pastry’. I apologise.

Elly still doesn’t know that she ruined my day.