A slice of oozy creamy brie sat on top of a piece of Smyrna sun-dried quince and I was in heaven. As I stood there savouring every last morsel I cold feel the ideas blooming in my mind. Walnuts! Yes, walnuts! What if I was to put these three things together - the quince, the brie and the walnuts to create some sort of savoury dish.
And so the process began. My pen and notebook at the ready as words quickly appeared on the page. Books were opened and the pages flicked through with a flurry. I was on a mission. I closed my eyes and imagined tasting these things together. I had remembered that Sue from Singing Magpie Produce had told me that the quince paired really well with salmon, so I naturally had to include this into the equation, however, it was in the form of flaked hot-smoked salmon that it appeared and what followed was a creamy yet light filling encased in a crisp and buttery walnut and rosemary crust. A tart was born and with it came a new-found love affair with sun-dried quince.
I have now made this tart three times, tweaking and changing things here and there in the hope that you too may create it in your own kitchen. It can be served hot, at room temperature or simply straight out of the fridge, cold, for when those hunger pangs just cant wait a minute longer. It would be perfect to take along to a picnic or gathering and even better gifted to a friend or family member. I will leave that choice up to you. But I can without doubt be sure that you will fall head over heels for Sue's quince and find yourself having to refrain from eating the whole packet when it arrives in your mailbox, consequently re-ordering some and perhaps sneaking a couple of other of her delicious products in your online shopping basket too!
Makes one 23-25cm tart
Walnut and Rosemary pastry
100g toasted walnuts
350g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 free-range egg
a sprig of rosemary
Add the walnuts and rosemary leaves to a small food processor and blitz to a fine crumb. Pop into a bowl with the flour, salt and butter. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles course breadcrumbs. Add the egg and bring the dough together with your hands. Lightly flour your bench and knead the dough into a ball, very briefly just so that it all comes together. Pat it out into a disc and wrap in cling film. Place into the fridge to have a little rest for at least 30 minutes. Or, overnight. Just make sure you take it out to reach room temperature again before rolling out. This will make it much easier to handle.
Grease the base and sides of a 23-25cm loose bottomed tart tin well using a pastry brush and a little melted butter, making sure you really get into all of the fluted edges of the sides and line the base with a circle of baking paper. Pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees.
When the pastry has finished resting, roll out onto a lightly floured bench until it is just a bit bigger than your tin and then carefully place into the tin. The easiest way to do this is to take your rolling pin and roll the pastry onto it, then carefully roll it back down on top of the tin. If the pastry is quite soft or, if its a warm day place the pastry lined tin back into the fridge for 20 minutes. I do this regardless.
Sit the tin on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Trim the edges and Carefully place foil onto the pastry and push down so its sits flat, then fill with pie weights, or if you don't have these you can use rice. Place into the oven for 20 minutes then lift up the foil just to check that there are no holes or cracks and bake for another 10 minutes. Or until the pastry feels dry to the touch, patch up any cracks with leftover dough. You may have leftover pastry which is always a good thing, simply wrap it up tightly and place into the freezer for another time or you can make smaller mini tarts with whatever you have leftover.
For the filling
2 leeks, top and tailed and sliced thinly
1 tbsp. olive oil
150g creamy Brie
300ml thickened cream
85g sun-dried smyrna quince (I order these through Singing Magpie Produce)
150g hot smoked salmon
Set your oven temperature to 170 degrees.
First of all you will need to cook your leeks, so place a large frypan on the stove with a medium heat, pop in the butter and oil and allow to melt, add the leeks and a pinch of salt and stir frequently until softened and just starting to colour. Set aside.
Using a food processor or high powered blender, place the ricotta and brie in and then blitz them together until smooth. Add in the eggs, cream and a grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt and then blend again until lovely and smooth. Stir through the leeks.
Now you need to pour in about half of the ricotta mixture into your tart shell and then place the quince slices on top of this followed by the flaked salmon. Pour the rest of the ricotta mix over the top, it should come just below the rim of the pastry. Carefully place into the oven and cook for about 60 minutes. It will puff up and look wonderfully golden on top. Dont worry that it then deflates on resting, its supposed to and you havent done anything wrong.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit for at least 15-20 minutes before removing from the tin. Slice and serve with a simple green salad and a zesty dressing.
Leftovers can be enjoyed straight from the fridge, warmed in the oven or wrapped tightly and stored in the freezer for at least 2 months.