If your name is Mr. Pear, then you dislike both mushrooms and strong cheese. Repelled by the unbearably savoury thought of garlic, spring onions, mushrooms, herbs, and blue cheese encased in buttery pastry, you would undoubtedly flee at the sight (the stench?) of such a creation. The rest of us would fall greedily upon the bosky tart, enjoying every salty, complex moment as we devour it.
I personally only think of tarts as fairly impressive centrepieces – it’s certainly not the kind of thing I would knock out for a quick bite. But whether you do eat tarts regularly, or want to have a show-off piece for dinner, this free-form cheese and mushroom tart is a good option: it comes together straightforwardly, can be made in advance, and is meant to look lopsided and composty – it has got rustic charm. The flavours are bold and strong – like a cheese cracker, in the best way possible – so keep this in mind when deciding on accompaniments. It’s different from the usual fussy, delicate custard whatnots entombed in impossible pastry.
To perhaps make planning your workflow a little easier: I generally make the filling and pastry in a day or two in advance, putting it together when I’m ready to bake. You could also freeze the unbaked pastry for up to 3 months, letting it thaw in the fridge and then to a rollable (but still cool) temperature in the kitchen. I shan’t insist that you use home-made pastry; a usual pack of ready made shortcrust – which I think is about 375g – should do, only you’ll probably have to make it rectangular rather than round. Inspired by another of Smit Kitch’s recipes, I baked mine in a fluted tart tin because I just thought adding the edges would be pretty.
You can use any mix of mushrooms and any sort of strong cheese in this tart. I, for some reason, had some dried porcini lying around so I was able to try that in the recipe, but I don’t really think it was absolutely crucial for depth of flavour – I am quite sure you could give it a miss and you’d still find the tart to be quite delicious. (Unless you’re Mr. Pear. Sorry, darling, you do put up with a lot from me!)
MUSHROOM AND STILTON TART (via the excellent Smitten Kitchen)
Gives about 6 decent slices, but it’s also delicious cold, so hope for leftovers…
- 175g plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 125g cold unsalted butter, diced
- 50g cold cream cheese, roughly cut into cubes (alternatively, replace with butter – cream cheese provides a slight savoury tang and further richness to the pastry)
- About 100ml cold water
- Cheese and Mushroom Filling
- 7g dried mushrooms (porcini or shiitake seem to be easiest to find, though see my comment above),
- 250ml boiling water
- 30g unsalted butter
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 2 garlic cloved, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped herbs, rosemary and/or thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried herbs.
- 450g fresh mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced – I used brown chestnut mushrooms and big flat portobella.
- 150g Stilton, or other strong cheese
- Make the pastry: Mix together the flour and salt.
- Add the cold butter and cream cheese. Using cool hands (rinse them with cold water) or a pastry cutter, combine the fat with the flour: briskly squash or cut the fat into the flour, breaking it into small flour-fat crumbs. Pause now and then to gently toss the whole mixture to evenly distribute the flour and fat. Stop mixing when the whole mixture is crumbly, with some of the fat still the size of small peas.
- Add a tablespoonful of the cold water to the mixture, combine using a round-bladed knife to make soft clumps. Add more water a spoonful at a time, concentrating on dry areas and dampening the mixture just enough to bring it together in clumps. Press together into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Make the filling: Soak the dried mushrooms by placing in a small bowl and pouring over the boiling water. Leave for 30 minutes, drain well, and chop finely.
- In a wide frying pan or saute pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook until soft and slightly see-through, then add the chopped garlic and herbs, stirring until fragrant.
- Increase the heat to high and add the rehydrated and fresh mushrooms to the pan – there’s quite a lot to fit in, so wait for a few minutes for the bottom layer to soften and cook down slightly before gently stirring. Cook until the liquid they give out evaporates and the mixture is dry.
- Put the cooked mushrooms into a medium bowl to cool.
- Crumble in the cheese, mix with the mushrooms, then set aside.
- Assemble & bake tart: Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Have your baking tray within easy reach. Get out your pastry and roll it out til it measures about 12 inches (30.5 cm) across, round or square. Exact measurements don’t much matter, just make sure the pastry is fairly thin – a little less than 0.25″, or around 0.5 cm.
- Carefully transfer your pastry to the baking tray. Spread the mushroom filling evenly from the centre outwards, leaving a good 1.5″ (4 cm) border around the edges. Folder the border over the filling, pleating as you go to make a neat(ish) crust. Make sure the tart’s comfortably contained within the tray.
- Bake in the hot oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown, firm, and the filling is bubbling. Let it sit out of the oven for 5 minutes before serving.