Sunday, 6 September 2015

Herby Ham and Sweetcorn Tart

Hello there friends! Thanks for sticking with me; the blog has been blighted by me going on two holidays in three weeks over the month of August, then big Tonju starting his first year of school last week and the project I'm involved in (about which I promise I'll enlighten you very soon) taking up more of my time in the evenings. I hope to return to my weekly post for you though, and more pretty pictures and links on the Facebook page. It's not good for anything like this to become stagnant, and I certainly don't want to lose any of you kind readers, so I'm hoping to be able to give a bit more time to the blog once the school run and day to day life reach a new normality for me.

I have a new recipe to share with you this evening, inspired from a long time ago in another life when I was much younger. The mum of an old friend used to make the most delicious sweetcorn quiche. It was part of her repertoire of delicious and comforting fanily meals, and I'll never forget the first time I tasted it. Even though it's probably 15 years since I last ate it, the desire to do so again has stuck with me. There is a cafe in on Gloucester Road in Bristol called Tart, which I often visit with my lovely sister. It always has several mouthwatering home-made tarts available, as well as couscous salads, plenteous salad and vegetables and the most incredible cakes, and when I was asked to put together a sample menu for the project, my mind went straight to Tart and I knew I wanted to include in the menu a tart of my own recipe. The sweetcorn quiche then sprang into my mind and I thought it would be the ideal opportunity to try to recreate that nostalgic taste whilst adding a few twists of my own.

As you'll know if you've been reading for a while, I love to make my own pastry, so I headed to Ruby Tandoh's "Crumb," a baking book which is beautifully written, although slightly contrived at times. I know my language can be convoluted, but Ruby can speak with excessive eloquence (if such a thing is possible) about the merest detail of an ingredient or the way the masses have come to view certain types of food. Anyway, I turned straight to her recipe for butternut squash tarts for her pastry recipe, and was immediately inspired to add herbs to my pastry; thyme, to be exact, from my little shrub outside the kitchen which, by a miracle, hasn't died yet! Please forgive, however, my neglecting to add it to the pastry process photo. I often forget to add little (and large) ingredients to my photos, and because these aren't recipe tests but real meals which I feed to my family, I don't have the time (or the spare cash!) to re-make the meal when I realise I've omitted something from a photo. As I've said before, I'm just keeping it real!

Following, then, is my recipe for Herby Ham and Sweetcorn Tart. I added the ham because I love the combination, and called it a tart because tart sounds more impressive than quiche. I'm all for honesty, and I'm pretty sure there isn't actually any difference between the two.

Ingredients (for a pie made in a 20cm tart tin)

For the pastry:

187.5g plain flour
94g butter
70ml water
Pinch of salt
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

For the filling:

2 x 200g tins sweetcorn
4 slices ham
1 onion
200ml double cream
2 eggs
A generous (or meagre!) grating of cheddar cheese
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


First make the pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter in a large bowl and rub together with the fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the thyme, if using, and mix in.

Begin to pour in the water, little by little, using a long and reasonably blunt knife to cut it into the pastry. When it starts to come together, use your fingers and hands to bring it all in. Add as much water as you need to bring it together but do not allow the pastry to become soggy; it needs to be as dry as possible without falling apart. For me, 70ml was perfect.

Once all the flour and water has combined, make it into a nice ball, wrap in clingfilm, and refrigerate whilst you prepare the filling.

Next, chop the onion and place in a pan on a medium to low heat for about 15 minutes, to soften. You can allow it to go a bit golden towards the end if you like by turning the heat up for a few minutes. Pre-heat the oven to fan 180C at the same time as putting the onions on.

While the onion is frying, prepare the ham by placing it on a chopping board and slicing through the layers to create lots of little slices.

Place in a large bowl, separating the little slices, drain the sweetcorn and add the contents of the tins to the ham, plus the optional thyme.

Once the onions are nicely softened and coloured, add them too, taking care not to add the cooking oil. You may wish to lift the onions out with a slotted spoon. Season and mix together well.

Set this mixture to one side and prepare the cream and egg mixture. Add the cream to a measuring jug up to 200ml, then crack in the eggs and add some seasoning, before whisking well with a fork until the eggs are well combined with the cream.

Remove the pastry from the fridge. It should have had about 20 minutes to firm up, but if it still feels a bit soft, leave it for another ten minutes until it's had half an hour. If the pastry is too soft, it will be difficult to roll and will just stick to the rolling pin. Flour your worksurface and place the pastry on the flour, ready to roll, not forgetting to flour up your rolling pin too.

Roll out so as to fit your tin or dish (I actually used a pie dish rather than a tart case, but you can get them the same size. As you can see, I had plenty of pastry left over, so if you only have a slightly larger tin, you may be able to stretch the pastry to cover it, otherwise just add a percentage to the pastry ingredients when you make it. )

Lay the pastry over the tin or dish and press gently into the bottom, making sure it is sitting nicely in the crease.

Put the ham and sweetcorn mixture you had previously set aside into the tin, making sure it is evenly spread.

Pour over the egg and cream mixture so it comes to the top but doesn't drown the ingredients!

Add a grating of cheddar cheese evenly over the top, amount according to taste. I like extra strong with a generous grating, as you see.

Then carefully slice off the excess pastry around the edge to tidy up the tart.

Place the tart in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes until the cheese is lovely and golden and the crust is gently brown. Leave to stand for a few minutes after baking to allow the contents to settle a little.

Serve with salad of your choice. I used my old favourite, babyleaf rocket salad with chopped beetroot, drizzled with apple balsamic and extra virgin olive oil.

Ohhhh, that's a good crust!

It also translates excellently to a mini-meal. The Tonjus loved this tart, and I simply served theirs with some chunks of beetroot since they find leaves a bit challenging at this stage in life.

I would say this is actually the perfect recipe for this time of year; a tart (quiche/flan) is a summer kind of dish, but the subtle heartiness of this recipe makes it an ideal transition-into-Autumn meal. It can be served with salad, but is also warming enough for the colder nights we're beginning to get. It would also be delicious served cold, on a picnic for example, with veg sticks on the side for ease, rather than the leaves. Carrot and celery sticks would be simple but ideal.

I hope that gives you some inspiration, and I'd also love to know if you make it and what you think, especially since I'm going to be using it as an example dish to serve to visitors for an open evening we are holding for the project. I promise this project will be revealed very soon, and you'll know what I'm talking about!.

Have a great week, and if you want more foodie photos, check out my Instagram feed (search for cookingforsanity) for inspiring dishes from the land of the internet!

xxx Sam

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