Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries: But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate! First he ate some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes; And then, feeling rather sick, he went to look for some parsley.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
After months of root veg, lunches heated up in the microwave at work, and seemingly endless soups, the start of spring arrives like a breath of fresh air. This tart is the perfect celebration for the start of the season, and a great vessel for any fresh veg you can put your hands on. It's somewhere between a quiche and a salad - still crisp and fresh, but with a delicious sqidgy, cheesy base inside some crumbly pastry.
The veg that inspired this came straight out of Mr McGregor's garden - it's everything that Peter gorged on and more. Great for a rabbit, and even better for you. Do let me know if you try it; I'd particularly love to hear what veg you fill the tart with. Oh, and if your greengrocer is anything like mine, you'll have some of everything left over after making this tart. I ate it all week for breakfast, with ricotta, on toasted sourdough. Perfect.
ps. If Mrs Rabbit's currant buns are more your style, don't miss yesterday's recipe - another special for Easter.
Mr McGregor's Tart
Serves 8 as a starter
255g plain flour
1 egg and one egg yolk
6tbsp rapeseed oil
150g soft goat's cheese
Leaves of 8 sprigs of lemon thyme
20g parsley leaves
Salt and pepper
3 new potatoes
Handful of French beans
Half a cucumber
Large handful of pea shoots
A small handful of red amaranth (or any other micro herb you can find)
Tart tin (you could use a round one, square one, or individual ones - whatever you have)
1. First, make the pastry. You can make it the night before, if that's easiest, and store it uncooked (but in the tin) overnight. Sieve the flour and salt into the bowl. Add the rapeseed oil to the beaten egg and yolk. Pour this over the flour and mix in with your hands, bringing it together into a dough. If you need to, add the cold water too, a little at a time. You don't want the dough to be sticky, so stop as soon as it all comes together. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. While the dough is chilling, fry the shallots and fennel until soft in the frying pan. Set aside to cool. Once the dough has firmed up in the fridge, roll it out between two sheets of greaseproof pepper to fit whatever tin/s you'll be baking your tart in. Place the dough gently into the tin, and encourage it to curve into all the edges - push it into place with a small bit of dough to create corners. Push the rolling pin over the top of the tin to cut off the overhang of pastry and place back in the fridge to chill for half an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C. When the pastry has chilled, and the oven is hot, put the tin into the oven, and cook until lightly browned - around 15 minutes. While the base is cooking, mash the goats cheese (or chop into small dice) and beat it with the eggs, herbs, salt and pepper. Stir the cooled onion and fennel through the egg mix.
4. Take the tart tin out of the oven, pour the egg mix into it, and spread it out. There won't be a lot of it; that's fine, but it should fill the base. Return to the oven for 15 minutes until set, then set aside until cooled.
5. Finely slice the new potatoes (with their skins still on) with the mandolin or a small, very sharp knife - be careful not to slice your fingers! Cook in a pan of lightly salted water for a couple of minutes, ensuring they retain their bite. Drain and set aside.
6. Slice the French beans with the vegetable peeler; you want to end up with thin lengths that reveal the seeds. Blanch these as well - for two minutes max, and then pop into cold water to stop them cooking. Drain. Slice the cucumber and radishes (cold from the fridge) with the mandolin and set these aside too. Pull the leaves off the pea shoots.
8. To finish the tart, arrange the slices of potato and French beans over the set egg and cheese base. Layer the cucumber and radish, then top with the pea shoots and red amaranth. Serve immediately.