It's been a long month and a half........ Between work and family illnesses my wife and I have been run ragged trying to keep up over the last six weeks, living off ready meals and takeouts is not a good recipe for life. At least now, it is starting to settle back down and I can look forward to a decent home cooked square meal.
In the middle of this I attended a conference in the UK. As part of the weeks agenda, we attended the wonderful Hever Castle, home to the unfortunate Anne Boleyn - second wife to King Henry the Eighth and most notable for being 5'3" just before her death but only 4'8" after......
During the Castle evening, we were treated to a fantastic and interesting tour and to a brilliant meal.
The starter course was something I haven't had in years - Cheese, Leek and Pea Egg Tarts.
A simple yet delicious start to the evening, I decided I had to try them.
Egg Tart with Leek and Cheese (didn't have peas on the day!)
200g (3/4 cup) All Purpose or Plain Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
50g (2 Tbls) Lard or Shortening
50g (2 Tbls) Butter
3 to 4 Tbls Cold Water
Sieve the Flour, Baking Powder and Salt together
Using your fingertips, lightly work in the butter and lard until it resembles small breadcrumbs
Make a well in the centre and add the cold water one spoonful at a time pulling the mixture together until it forms a ball. (amount of water needed will differ dependent on humidity, heat in kitchen etc)
When the mixture comes together as one , wrap in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.
To Blind Bake the Pastry
Preheat the oven to 200 Centigrade
After the pastry has rested, roll out and cut into rounds to fit into a muffin tin (or use a large pie dish if preferred)
Place into the muffin tin (or pie dish) and cover each of the pastry cases with a piece of parchment paper.
Onto the parchment paper, place a layer of Ceramic Baking Beads or weight of your choice (I use a uncooked rice or lentils poured into the parchment - these can be used again but be sure that they are only used for this purpose and not for general eating...)
These weights allow for the pastry to be cooked just enough to stop the liquid filling leaking out and also stops the pastry rising.
Cook at 200 Centigrade for 10 minutes and remove from the oven and allow to cool while we prepare the filling. (removing the weights and parchment carefully - they're hot)
One Shallot (or a small onion) finely chopped
One Leek finely chopped
75 mls 1/2 Cup cream
100g 1/2 Cup grated Cheddar (or cheese of choice)
3 eggs lightly beaten
Few good grinds Black Pepper (to taste)
Pinch of Nutmeg (and/or cayenne pepper optional)
Over a medium heat, fry the shallots and leeks in a little oil until soft (about 10 minutes)
Turn the heat to low and pour in the cream - let the cream reduce for about 5 minutes.
Strain the Leeks (reserving the cream) and spoon a small amount of the mixture in the bottom of the pie casings and cover with a small pinch of the grated cheese.
Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg to the eggs and beat lightly. Pour a small amount of the warm cream into the eggs whisking whilst doing so (this tempers the eggs - IE raises the eggs temperature slightly and saves you ending up with scrambled eggs)
After a few seconds add the remaining cream continuing to whisk.
Pour the mixture into the cases, top with cheese and put into the oven at 200 Centigrade for 12 to 15 minutes.
The eggs should be set and golden in colour
Serve with a salad either hot or cold and spare a thought for poor Anne Boleyn.......