Monday, 19 October 2015

Butternut Squash, Smoked Haddock & Kale Tart with Wholemeal Walnut Pastry

Autumn in a tart. Nutty, wholemeal pastry packed full of some of my favourite autumnal ingredients. 

I am slightly obsessed with Autumn. It's the one time of year when the seasonal fruit and vegetables really do match up to the gorgeous golden colours of the leaves. The exciting autumnal produce - sweetcorn, squash, leeks, plums, kale, figs, cabbage - has me running to my kitchen. 

To kick off my Autumn cooking fest this year, the lovely folk at Wholegood sent me a (quite frankly ginormous) box of uber fresh, organic fruit and veg. This was the first of many new recipes I've developed over the past four weeks (cooking is one thing, finding time to write about it in the chaos of family life is another...).

I'm a big fan of savoury tarts. They're perfect for family meals, portable for packed lunches and great for using up veg or making a small quantity of cheese or fish go a long way. They can also be easily grabbed by small hands, making them really practical for weaning. With this in mind, I didn't  add any salt to this tart, other than the small amount of smoked fish. If you're not feeding small people, then do add a good pinch of salt to the pastry and season the filling to taste. 

If you don't eat fish, then this tart works brilliantly with blue cheese too - omit the smoked haddock and black peppercorns, skip the fish poaching step, reduce the quantity of whole milk to 150ml (and whisk it directly  in with the cream and eggs) and add 100g crumbled blue cheese with the vegetables. 


For the pastry:

25g walnuts
100g plain flour
60g wholemeal flour
80g unsalted butter
50ml cold water

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash (approx 500g), peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 tbsp olive oil
150g natural undyed smoked haddock, skin removed
175ml whole milk
5 whole peppercorns
3 or 4 big stalls of green curly kale
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
150ml double cream
2 medium eggs
freshly ground black pepper


Start by making the pastry. 

Preheat the oven to 170C. 

Put the walnuts on a small baking tray and roast for 8 minutes. Leave to cool completely then put them into a food processor or blender and pulse until finely ground. 

Put the flours, salt and butter in a mixing bowl and rub together with your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Stir through the ground walnuts. Add the cold water, a little at a time, and bring together to form a ball (you may not need it all), handling the pastry lightly and as little as possible.  Flatten into a patty, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Grease a 23cm deep fluted loose bottomed tart tin. Roll the pastry out until it is about 3mm thick and line the tart tin, trimming the excess pastry around the edge of the tin. Using a fork, gently prick the pastry in the base of the tin all over, without piercing the pastry. Put the lined tart tin into the fridge to chill for 15 minutes (or longer). 

Preheat the oven to 200C. 

Put the cubed butternut squash and 1 tbsp of the olive oil into a roasting tin and mix well. Roast for 25-30 minutes until the squash is cooked and beginning to brown at the edges. 

Whilst the squash is roasting, blind bake your pastry.  Remove the lined tart tin from the fridge, line with a piece of non stick baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking parchment and baking beans and return to the oven for a further 6-8 minutes (or until the pastry is just cooked through and starting to turn  lightly golden). Remove from the oven ready to fill (see below). 

Whilst the squash and pastry are in the oven, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Place a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the whole milk and the peppercorns and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the smoked haddock and poach for 5 minutes, or until cooked through. 

Drain the milk into a jug, discard the peppercorns and put the smoked haddock to one side until it is cool enough to handle. Once cooled, check for bones and flake into small pieces. 

Remove the thick stalks from the kale and wash well. Bring a pan of water to the boil, blanch the kale leaves for 1-2 minutes, drain and cool under running cold water. Squeeze out any excess water and shred finely. 

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened. 

Mix the roasted squash, onion, kale, smoked haddock together with some grated nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper and spread out inside the blind baked pastry case. 

Beat the eggs, reserved poaching milk and double cream together and pour over the filling. 

Put the tart into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned and set. 

Remove from the oven and place the tart on a cooling rack. Leave for 15 minutes to cool before removing he tart from the tin to serve. 

Thanks to Wholegood for sending me a big box of organic veg and fruit to cook with, including this butternut squash and kale. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Fig Frangipane Cake

Drop whatever you're doing and go and buy some figs. Quick. It's time to make the most of them before their season is done and dusted. You'll need the ripest, juiciest figs you can lay your hands on. And, if you're anything like me. you should probably buy more than you think you'll need as they have a habit of disappearing.

Sat atop creamy Greek yogurt with a sprinkling of granola for breakfast. Roasted with blue cheese and drizzled with honey and sherry vinegar for lunch. Baked in a tart with goat's cheese and thyme for tea. Eaten straight from the fruit bowl.

This little tart-cake hybrid came about last week when Milli Taylor posted something similar on her (frankly drool-worthy) instagram feed. One trip to the Magic Shop later and, with figs and ground almonds in hand, I set about baking, just in time for Great British Bake Off viewing. Well, because, as everyone knows, it is impossible to watch Bake Off without, at the very least, a massive slice of cake to hand. Since then, I've baked it for Band of Bakers, a visit from my mother in law and most recently for a friend who has just had a baby. She'll be needing all the cake she can get to see her through those long sleepless nights. 

It's kind of a fig frangipane tart which lost it's crust along the way. The flour means it is a little more cake like than my usual frangipane, but it does need to be substantial enough to make it from plate to mouth without it's pastry scaffolding. Sort of.


150g unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp amaretto
finely grated zest of 1 orange
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g ground almonds
2 ripe figs
1 tbsp apricot jam


Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan). 

Grease a 23cm round deep fluted loose bottomed tart tin with a little unsalted butter.

Using a stand mixer or electric beaters, beat the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy (this can easily take 5 minutes or longer, depending on your mixer).

Beat the eggs together with the orange zest and amaretto, then add this to the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time and continue mixing until incorporated. Don't worry if the batter looks a little like it has curdled, it will come together when you add the flour.

Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the batter along with the ground almonds. Mix until just combined.

Put the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top.

Cut each fig into eight equal pieces and arrange them on top of the batter, pushing them in lightly without submerging them in the batter.

Bake for 25 minutes or until light brown on top and a skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Whilst the tart is cooling, heat the apricot jam and sieve to remove any large pieces of fruit. Stir 1 tsp boiling water into the sieved jam and, using a pastry brush, brush all over the top of the tart.

I think it tastes pretty good still slightly warm, served with a good dollop of clotted cream.