Tarts, quiches or flans, whatever you like to call them, were a part of my childhood. I have a distinct memory of Mum coming home after a full day and making a bacon, onion and cheese quiche. She made the pastry from scratch. Then she scattered cheese over the bottom of the pastry case, (I now know this helps get a consistent flavour throughout the filling). Then in would go the cooked bacon and onion, the remainder of the cheese and an egg and cream custard finishing the quiche. While it baked away, she would make coleslaw, again from scratch and I think there were also jacket potatoes in the oven too. I remember her in a skirt – she always wore skirts to work – and it must have been summer, because it was a light cotton skirt and she had bare legs.
Mum made all this look effortless, easy and enjoyable. I think for her it was also a way of unwinding after a long day at work while creating something delicious and wholesome for her family.
Aged 8, watching my Mum cook all this just seemed normal. It’s only now that I know the tiredness after a day’s work and of trying to keep on top of everything that I look back on this memory in a different light. I love that she had the energy to do this as there is nothing particularly quick about cooking a tart.
Like her, in this recipe, I have chosen to make the pastry from scratch. But there is good pastry to be bought in the supermarket chiller cabinet, which you could use instead (260g should be enough). I let my pastry rest in the fridge for 30 minutes before working with it as this allows the gluten in the flour to ‘relax’ and makes it less lightly to shrink while cooking. I also blind bake the pastry: roll it out, line the baking tin with it, cover with baking paper, ‘pour’ on a layer of ceramic baking beans and bake until the pastry is cooked (8 – 10 minutes). Blind baking helps prevent soggy pastry in the finished tart.
Once the pastry has been baked, I paint it with beaten egg and bake for three more minutes. This process seals the pastry and prevents the filling leaking out which would also risk making the pastry soggy. (If you don’t have ceramic baking beans, 450g/1lb of rice would do just as well.)
I scatter grated cheddar over the cooked and sealed pastry just as my Mum taught me too. Cooking the leeks and the bacon creates moisture and I find it best to use a colander to get rid of as much moisture as possible before adding them to the pastry case.
Leek, bacon and thyme tart
170g/6oz plain flour
1 large pinch of salt
85g/3oz butter in small cubes at room temperature
1 tbsp oil
3 leeks, trimmed and chopped into thin coins
225g/8oz bacon, sliced into thin strips
3 eggs, beaten
110g/4oz cheddar cheese, grated
100ml/3fl oz double or heavy cream
14g/½oz fresh thyme
23 cm / 9” flan tin
Total carbohydrate per portion – 21 g
Preparation time – 45 minutes
Cooking time – 30 minutes
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180°C fan / 395°F / Gas mark 6.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour and then salt. Then rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a little water to bring the whole mixture into one ball. Put the pastry in a plastic bag or wrap it in cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour.
3. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the leeks and thyme until there are nearly soft. Then add in the bacon and continue to cook until the leeks are soft and the bacon cooked. Place in a colander over the sink to drain any liquid away.
4. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, so until it’s large enough to fit the tin and then carefully line the tin with it. Cover with a large piece of baking paper, fill with baking beans and put in the oven for 8 – 10 minutes, until the pastry is cooked.
5. Using some of the egg mixture paint the inside of the pastry case and then put back in the oven for another 3 minutes.
6. Scatter a handful of cheese over pastry, then add the leeks and bacon. Top with the rest of the cheddar.
7. Add the cream to the eggs and mix well and then pour over the leeks and bacon mixture.
8. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes. I turn the tart around five minutes from the end to ensure it is lightly browned all over.
9. Leave in the tin for ten minutes to cool a little and then serve.
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