Having recently completed a unit on practical pastry for school, where we dabbled in the likes of sweet shortcrust, the different puffs, strudel, pies and choux; I got to thinking about the savoury shortcrust, and how it would be fun to play around with the textures and flavours of this oft-neglected crust.
So, taking a leaf from Richard Bertinet's beautiful book, Pastry, I made up some savoury tart shells using two different flours; wholewheat for its wonderful flaky texture, and spelt, with its rich and nutty taste.
Paired with a creamy pumpkin ricotta filling studded with a sharp, tangy parmesan and woody sage, the resulting tarts were beautiful just-warm as a light supper, and equally good cold for lunch the next day.
While making your own pastry can seem somewhat burdensome it takes far less effort than you might think, and the ability to control the ingredients opens up a whole new world of textures and flavours. With the option to prepare in advance, and defrost whenever you need, it's never been easier to work pastry dishes into your everyday...
PUMPKIN, RICOTTA & ASPARAGUS TARTS (Adapted from Pastry by Richard Bertinet)
For the spelt pastry:
- 125 g spelt flour
- 125 g wholemeal flour
- 5 g salt
- 125 g butter, cold and diced
- 1 egg
- 35 ml water, cold
For the pumpkin ricotta filling:
- 400 g roast pumpkin, cooled and mashed
- 250 g ricotta
- 3 eggs
- 80 g parmesan, finely grated
- 6 sage leaves, finely chopped
- 12 stalks of asparagus
To make the pastry, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and then rub in the butter until it's in lumps the size of your little fingernail*. Add the water and egg and bring everything together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and work briefly by folding the edges of the dough back onto itself, until you have a nice, smooth block. Cover in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
To blind bake your pastry cases, preheat your oven to 190°C and lightly grease ten, 8-cm diameter tart tins. Roll out your pastry on a lightly-floured surface until 2-3-mm thick, cut out rounds to line your tins, fill with paper and baking weights and then leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Bake for 15 minutes before removing the weights and paper, brushing lightly with egg wash and then returning to the oven to bake for an additional 8 minutes.
While the pastry cases are baking prepare your filling by beating together the egg and ricotta until smooth. Add in the parmesan, sage and mashed pumpkin and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and then fill your pastry cases. Top with asparagus and then bake at 180°C for 25-30 minutes until the filling is just set and lightly brown on top. Serve warm with a simple green salad or refrigerate and eat cold the next day. Makes 10 small tarts.
** Richard's book has a wonderfully detailed description (including pictures) on preparing shortcrust pastry. Well worth a look if you're after better instruction than what I've provided here.