For this tart, you simply slice and simmer some leeks, lay them on a sheet of ready-made puff pastry, sprinkle over some cheese and seasonings, and bake it until golden. After less than half an hour in a hot oven, you get an impressive-looking and delicious tart: puffy, crisp yet yielding pastry covered with light layer of tender leeks and savoury cheese. It’s an ideal light lunch or brunch.
To make it more substantial, you can sprinkle over some chopped ham or bacon just before it goes in the oven, or carefully slip some whole eggs onto the face of the tart so they can bake until just set for the last 10 or so minutes of cooking. You can also omit or increase the cheese as you like, and use any vegetable you fancy – if it’s cooked before it goes on the pastry, the topping will intensify in the heat of the oven in the same way, so you will get a delicious and simple vegetable tart.
The original recipe called for longer pieces of leeks, which resulted in a more elegant gold and green tart set in a picture frame of puff pastry. It was, unfortunately, impossible to eat – those long and slender leeks turned out to be rubbery logs. This recipe maintains the impressive presentation and ensures that it’s easy to make and eat from start to finish.
- . 3 medium leeks
- . 200 ml stock (chicken or vegetable), or white wine
- . 3 stalks of fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme or any herb(s) you like
- . 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- . 1 x 375g pack ready made puff pastry, ready rolled if possible
- . Salt and pepper to taste
- . 2 – 3 tablespoons grated or crumbled cheese of your choice – I used cheddar, but you could use anything you fancy.
- . Optional: 2 – 3 slices of ham or bacon, chopped; 4 – 6 eggs.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Prepare the leeks: wash and dry them carefully, then cut off the tough roots at the bottom and the fibrous dark green leaves at the top. You should be left with lengths of white and pale green stalk; slice them in half along the length, trying to keep all the layers together, then cut them crosswise into about 3 sections. You should have roughly bite-size, rectangular slices of leek.
- Put the butter and stock or wine together into a fairly wide, high-sided frying/sauté pan or saucepan. If you’re using fresh herbs, add them at this point; dried herbs should be sprinkled over later. Bring everything to the boil over a high heat, then add the leek pieces. The liquid should just cover the leeks. Turn the heat to medium and keep at a steady simmer, uncovered, for about 15 - 20 minutes until the leeks are cooked.
- Top up with a little more wine or water if needed. They’re done when they’ve collapsed a little, are slightly see-through, and are tender enough to easily pierce with a tip of a knife. Keep prodding them until you’re sure they’re cooked – you don’t want rubbery leeks!
- While the leeks are cooking, you can prepare the pastry. Get out a medium or large metal baking tray, the size doesn’t greatly matter – the tart will just be a little wider if the tray is bigger. If the pastry needs rolling, or is greatly smaller than your chosen tray, then roll it into a rectangle that is large enough to fit.
- With the back of a knife, score a 1 – 2 inch wide border around the edge of the pastry sheet, like a picture frame. Make sure you don’t cut all the way through – scoring makes sure that you get an attractive puffy crust.
- When the leeks are cooked, drain thoroughly, shaking them gently in a sieve or colander. Discard the thyme sprigs, if used. Now top the tart: carefully and evenly spread the leeks over the pastry sheet. Season lightly with some salt, and a little more of pepper. Sprinkle over dried herbs, if using, then scatter over the cheese.
- Bake it for 20 – 25 minutes, turning halfway to ensure even cooking. It’s cooked when the pastry is thoroughly puffed and golden, and the topping is bronzed in places. Serve immediately.
Images courtesy of Pear Nuallak