May 2012

Equally delicious hot or cold

This dish is a tribute to the magnificent region of France where I come from, and one day you must make it part of one of your dinner parties!

Serves (Yield):   8 guests Difficulty rating: ●○○
Preparation time:   30 mins Cooking time: 30 mins
Special equipment: 1 tart ring 21 x 2.5 cm; a baking sheet

Planning ahead: 
The pastry must be prepared at least 30 minutes in advance and refrigerated.
The tart can be made up to half an hour prior to the meal and kept warm.

For the pastry:
200g   Flour, plain
1g 1 pinch Salt (*1)
100g   Butter, unsalted, diced
55g 1  Egg, medium organic (*2)
15ml  2 tbsp  Water, cold (*3)

For the filling:
200g 2 stalks Swiss chard, peeled (*4) and cut into 4cm Batons
30g  2 tbsp  Butter unsalted
60 ml    Water
100ml   Milk, whole organic
100ml   Cream, whipping
110g 2  Eggs, medium organic
200g   Cheese, Comte
5 rasps Nutmeg - optional
2g 2 pinches Sea salt
1g 2 pinches Pepper, black freshly ground

Method -EITHER
For making the pastry in a food processor:
In a food processor, mix the ingredients in the order as above, until the dough is a sandy texture (Pulsing for 20 -30seconds – NO MORE) (*5)
On a clean work surface, knead the dough in to a ball for 10 seconds to bring the dough together. (*6) Reserve 20-30g of dough, tightly wrap it in cling film and store for later (to tuck in the dough). Roll the remaining dough in to a cylinder, cut in half across, flatten each half it in to a round shape of 2cm (*7) thickness, cling film and refrigerate.


For making the pastry by hand: (10 minutes)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the butter and using your fingertips, lightly rub and lift the mixture together until it reaches a sandy texture. Create a well in the centre and add the egg and water.
With the tips of your fingers, in little concentric circles, work the egg yolks and water into the mixture until all the elements have combined and clumped together. Bring and press the dough together. (*6) Reserve 20-30g of dough, tightly wrap it in cling film and store for later (to tuck in the dough). Roll the remaining dough in to a cylinder, cut in half, flatten each half it in to a round shape of 2cm (*7) thickness, cling film and refrigerate.

Lining the tart ring:
Pre-heat the oven to 170°C Place a baking stone or heavy baking tray in the middle of the oven.
Here is another lovely technique to have better control on thinning the dough. I am sure you have tried to thin down dough in a warm kitchen and the dough sticks to the table, this technique stops this and makes it really to roll out the dough.
Arrange two squares of cling film 40cm x 40cm side by side, place the refrigerated dough in the middle of one sheet, cover with the 2nd sheet. Then with ease, roll the dough out to 3mm thick circle shape.(*8)
Place the tart ring on the wooden peel lined with greaseproof paper.
Take off the top layer of cling film, (discard) then, lift the cling film from the two closest corners, the dough will cling to it and drape it into the tart ring. Lift the edges and push the dough into the ring; then, press the base of the tart ring using the dough wrapped in cling film. Ensure the dough is neatly compressed and moulded into the shape of the ring. This will minimise shrinkage or collapse of the dough. Trim the edges of the tart by using a rolling pin.
Now, raise the height of the dough 2mm above the tart ring. You achieved this by pressing your index finger and thumb and pushing the pastry gently to the top of the pastry case all around the edge of the tart ring.(*9)
With a fork, prick the bottom of the tart. (*10)  Allow to rest in the fridge for 1 hours to relax and firm up the pastry.(*11) Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Preparing the filling and baking:
Simmer the chard stalks in the water, butter and seasonings for 10 minutes until the chard stalks are soft and melting but retain their texture. In a large bowl mix together the milk, cream, eggs and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Evenly sprinkle the grated cheese and arrange the chard pieces on the base of the tart case.
Place the tart back into the oven and gently pour the mixture into the tart.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. (*12)
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving to your guests.

Chef’s notes (*1):
*1 Salt - Always use the best salt with the least refining. Never use salt with
horrible anti caking additives.

*2 Egg quality - Always buy Organic or free range eggs. They follow good husbandry practices & good ethical standards. For all preparation where egg white is raw you must use an egg with the lion mark which comes from a vaccinated hen so you run no risk of Salmonella.
Markings on Eggs – There is some red writing on the shell which it does
give us important informations on  the frshness, the quality, and
The “Lion” stamp.
Doesn’t mean it is the best quality but you can be reassured it is safe to use in your preparation.

Best-before date – The date sets the shelf life of the egg which is 21 days after it has been laid. Try to use fresh eggs.

Numbers - There is also a number which identifies the standards of quality and assurance scheme and system of husbandry – 0 for organic, 1 for free range, 2 for barn eggs and 3 for cage eggs.

Any of those numbers are followed by a country code (e.g. UK) and a set of numbers which identifies the farm from which the egg originated.

This number is followed by a country code (e.g. UK) and a set of numbers which identifies the farm from which the egg originated.
*3 Water – the water will add moisture so all the starch, sugar and egg yolk bind together, allowing you to work the dough easier and make the dough less prone to crack and break.
*4 Swiss Chard - If the Swiss chard is young it will not require peeling. As the stalks become older they can become quite fibrous and may require peeling.
*5  Making the pastry with a food processor – all my life I have tried to establish the closest possible relationship with ingredients; I thought “by hand” was always better than “by machine”. Having tried this recipe in a food processor, pulsing the mixture together I saved time, but I had a lesser pastry, by hand you will achieve perfect shortbread quality, so I am happy to confirm that by hand is better. The dough made in the machine can be easily over mixed; making a pastry which will be too delicate and powdery.
*6 Kneading - if you over mix, the ingredients will be too intimately mixed together and the dough will become elastic and retract during cooking. The pastry will also be less flaky as all the air has been removed.
*7 2cm thickness -  I am sure you have done a recipe where you have balled your dough and it has taken you 10 minutes of bashing the cold dough in to a flatter shape, this technique avoids all these aggravations.
*8 Rolling – it is a marvellous little technique; you will not need flour which will make your pastry heavier, your work top will be cleaner, but mostly we have all know the problem of rolling a delicate dough in a warm kitchen… and it is sticking, making a real drama for you.
*9 Raising the rim – here we are not using any dried beans to pre-bake the dough. By pushing all the edge of the tart to 2mm above the rim, you are minimising the retraction of the pastry during cooking.
*10  Docking – by pricking the base of the tart case, you allow and steam generated when cooking to escape, helping to keep the case flat and level.
*11 Resting – Allow the pastry to rest before you cook it to minimise any shrinkage.
*12 Spatula – The safest way to check the base of your tart is to use a spatula and gently lift the tart to check the colour of the base. Make sure it is a golden brown colour.

Comte can be replaced by Gruyere, Emmental, which is less salty.
Other fillings you could use are Roquefort and celery, Pumpkin and Spinach, Goats cheese and tomato.

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