Squash, kale and pine nut tartlets

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Gorgeous little tartlets that combine few of my favourite things. Beautifully seasonal and perfect to tie in with my birthday celebrations this month but equally suited as part of the festive party table. These are packed full of flavours, easy to make ahead of schedule and portable enough to balance with a glass of fizz in the other hand. Lets party! IMG_6211

Halloween might be over but for me this month really is about all things pumpkin. I am totally in love with the Crown Prince squash that I blogged about as part of my November’s IMK contribution. This really is the most beautiful squash, both visually and in flavours. And when it’s roasted with some fresh thyme, good olive oil and sprinkling of chilli and salt flakes, its sweet and almost caramel flavour really shines. In this particular recipe the squash benefits from a double oven time as it is roasted first and then baked again. You could of course replace it with a butternut squash but if possible, do try to seek one of these instead.

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Another favourite ingredient of mine at this time of the year is kale. And in particular Cavolo Nero. This black kale has an intense, almost sweet flavour that pairs with the squash beautifully. I have been a fan of this particular kale for a long time and whenever possible, I like adding it to stews and soups generously. It has the most beautiful, long, almost black robust leaves and a rich flavour that lends itself to many dishes. In these tartlets the kale goes in raw to start with as the short baking time is all that is needed to ensure it is cooked but still full of texture. My favourite bits are where the kale pokes out and goes really, really crispy and crunchy.

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Both ingredients are highlighted by the sharpness and saltiness of the feta that cuts thorough the sweetness beautifully. Raw pinenuts sprinkled on top transform during the bake from soft and buttery to crunchy and rich. The whole ensemble is held together with a simple egg and cream custard, lightly scented with fresh thyme. Since I am now an owner of a Magimix food processor (believe me, it took me a very, very long time to convince myself I would find it useful), when time allows, I make the pastry from scratch. But because of a lingering cold, today I am using a good quality shop bought shortcrust pastry for speed.

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These tartlets are vegetarian friendly but appeal to carnivores alike. I had to be pretty quick with my photo taking as Mr A scoffed three of them just passing by through the kitchen. The recipe could of course be made into one large tart but I think these individual ones are particularly cute and perfect for a little celebration. You will inevitably have some squash and kale left over from the given quantities below which can be used to make a delicious soup too. A win win. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • good quality shop bought shortcrust pastry (all butter)
  • 1 small Prince Crown squash
  • few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt flakes to season
  • 100 grams of Cavolo Nero
  • 50 grams of feta cheese, cut into 1 cm cubes
  • 40 grams of pine nuts
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp of cream
  • black pepper to season

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Preheat the oven to 180°C. Arrange 6 tartlet tins with removable bottoms and line them with the shortcrust pastry. In this recipe I like to trim my pastry at this point and even if it shrinks a little, it should not cause you any problems since the amount of liquid is low enough to avoid any overflow. Prick the bottoms of the tarts with fork – this should stop them from rising but you could also use some baking beans. Place the lined tins back in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to allow the pastry to chill again.

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In the meantime, wash the squash and cut it in half. Reserve one of the halves for later. Remove the seeds and cut the other half into eights. Spread the half moons onto a baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the chilli and salt flakes. Turn each piece over to ensure it is evenly coated with the oil and spices. Place in the preheated oven and roast for 25 minutes or so. Check by inserting a tip of a knife into a piece – you want the squash to be soft and caramelised around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Remove the chilled tartlets and bake them blind in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes until just pale. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

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Using kitchen scissors, cut the kale into thin strips, about 1 cm in width. Place a small handful of the kale strips into each of the tartlet, just enough to roughly cover the bottom. Cut the squash pieces into chunks about 2 cm in width – do not remove the outer skin as it adds a delicious contrasting texture. Arrange five chunks of squash in each tartlet, reserving any extras.

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Add three cubes of feta cheese into each tartlet. Crumble an extra cube on top of each tart.

In a jug whisk the egg with cream and crumble in the remaining cheese with 1/2 tsp of thyme leaves. Mix it together before pouring a little of the custard into each tartlet. The custard is there to slightly envelop the content rather than to swamp it. These are pretty little tartlets, not mini quiches…

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Garnish each tart with few extra thyme leaves before placing in the oven and baking for 15 minutes or so. You want the tartlets to just starting to golden around the edges, the custard to be just set and the feta cheese to become soft with the pinenuts beautifully toasted. Check the bottoms to ensure the tarts are fully cooked – if necessary, return to the oven for few more minutes.

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Once the tarts are baked, remove from the oven and allow to rest for five minutes or so in their tins. Once cooled enough to handle, remove the tartlets from the tins. Arrange them onto a serving platter, top up everyone’s glass with extra fizz and serve warm. Enjoy x

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