RED ONION, PANCETTA, BLUE CHEESE & CAVOLO NERO TART INSPIRED BY GEORGIA CUMMINGS

The lovely Georgia was such an inspiring woman to talk to and I loved that one of her desert island dishes she chose, was a tart. A tart is essentially a quiche, just with a less retro name. Not that I object to the name of quiche at all. I am, after all, called Margie. Quiche was one of the first things we learnt to make at cookery school and that's for good reason. They are incredibly useful, they are simple and they can be made even by beginners.

They are such a perfect dish to make for a dinner party. You can make them ahead, which is a big bonus. You can serve them hot, or cold. And truly everyone is always so surprised at how much they enjoy them. I love how you can play around with the fillings; a little of this, a bit of that, and hey presto. You can serve them just as they are with a crisp green salad and lots of chilled white wine for a veritable feast.

In recent months I have opted for the sort of free form style of tart in the manner of a galette. I use shop bought puff pastry (don't judge me) and I just roll it into a shape of sorts and top with my fillings, just making sure to leave a gap around the edge. Brush the pastry on show with some egg was and bake in the oven. Very simple, very satisfying. However! Georgia reminded me how satisfying it is to make your own pastry; nothing will make you feel more like a cast member of Little House on The Prairie...in a good way.

I loved the sound of Ottolenghi's polenta pastry, (by golly he's a clever fellow) so I had fun experimenting with that and the recipe I'm going to give you is the one I liked the best after some trial and error. The polenta adds a slightly crunchy texture but the most delicious way and just adds a bit of interest to the pastry.

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Serves 6-8

For the pastry:

115g (4 oz) quick cook polenta

115g (4oz) plain flour

115g (4oz) butter

1 egg

1 tbsp water 

pinch salt

For the filling:

1/2 red onion, sliced

5 cavolo nero leaves

150g pancetta cubes

1 clove garlic, crushed

70g gruyere

30g blue cheese

3 eggs

150ml single cream

Method

For the pastry: Mix the flour, polenta and salt together in a large bowl and then rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Mix together the egg and the water in a separate bowl and slowly add this to the breadcrumb mix. A wet dough is easier to handle for sure, but too wet and it can result in tough pastry. Add a dash more water if needed. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.

Once chilled, roll out and line your tart tin, and brick the base all over with a fork. I love using a rectangular one but it's the equivalent to a 24cm loose bottomed tart tin.

Heat the oven to 180C / 350 f / GAS 4

Bake the pastry for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush with egg and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, get on with the filling. 

Gently fry the onion and once soft, add the cavolo nero to the pan. Cook for just a minute or so and then tip into a bowl and set to one side. Fry the pancetta in the pan until lovely and crispy. Add the pancetta to the onion mix. Spread it out evenly in your tart case. Top with the blue cheese and grated gruyere. Add a good grind of pepper.

Mix together the eggs and the cream and then tip this over the filling. If you need a bit more just top up with a little more cream mixture.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the filling has set and is golden. Leave to cool for 10 minutes of so before removing from the tin. Best served neither hot nor cold, opt for room temperature. 

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