Saturday, May 26, 2007
D is for Dandelion Tart in a Heart
My next consignment of dandelion leaves arrived on the 7.52 train from Pangbourne to Paddington. Their courier was Helen, a work colleague who picked them from her back garden. She had taken extraordinary care with them. They had been washed, patted dry and lined up in neat rows, all facing the same direction and tucked in with kitchen paper. It seemed a bit cruel to remove them, let alone cook them. But the Great Big Veg Challenge has a momentum of its own that is taking over. Freddie wants to know what's on the menu, as do friends at work and neighbours. Then there are all of you out there who encourage us. We reserved these pampered greens for a very special Friday night meal. Alexandra had been away from home for a week on a school trip. So I made four dandelion tarts in heart-shaped tins. Freddie made a little welcome home card for her place. For a second it felt like a Martha Stewart family moment. A split second. That was until I burnt my finger on the oven shelf, dropped one of the tarts and swore. Freddie looked up from his card-making with a withering glance. " Do you have to say that?"
I looked down at my heart-shaped tart splatted on the kitchen floor, muttered an apology and scraped it up with a fish-slice. That would have to be mine. Lots of well-meaning parenting guides say we have to lead by example. But you can bet that Freddie will not remember the fine example of my tart-cooking but the inappropriate swear word will be lodged permanently in his mind. Oh well. Alexandra came home, talking ten to the dozen about her wonderful adventures, loved Freddie's little card and the Dandelion tart. Freddie's score was seven and a half out of ten.
500g readymade Shortcrust pastry
9 inch flan dish
3 eggs beaten
1 egg yolk
salt and freshly ground pepper
150ml of creme fraiche
4 handfuls of small dandelion leaves, roughly chopped
A large knob of butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
Two handsome pinches of smoked paprika
150g of grated Cheshire Cheese, or other white crumbly cheese
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200'C, 400'F. Roll out the pastry on floured surface and line a lightly greased (9 inch)flan tin and chill for 10 minutes. You can use individual quiche tins if you prefer. Bake the pastry blind which means placing a large circle of baking parchment on top of the pastry weighed down with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the paper and beans. Return to the oven for 5 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove and let it cool. Lower oven temperature to Gas Mark 4, 180'C, 350'F.
Saute the finely chopped onion until it is soft on a gentle heat. Add a couple of pinches of smoked paprika. In another small pan melt a knob of butter and when its just melted add your dandelion leaves, stirring so that they just wilt. Don't do this for longer than about 30 secs.
Layer the pastry case evenly with the onion and season. Scatter the dandelion leaves evenly through the case, reserving a few.
In a bowl, mix together the eggs, creme fraiche and cheese and season. Pour over the onion and dandelions and scatter the few remaining dandelion leaves on top.
Pour over the courgettes, scatter the pine nuts over the top and bake in the oven for 30-35 mins until slightly brown and set. Serve warm or cold with salad. Serves 6-8.