Me & Hugh: Lettuce, Spring Onion & Cheese Tart

Behold, the pie's beloved cousin, the tart. (photo by Ben)

Serves 5-6

  • 250g plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 125g chilled butter
  • 75ml milk
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large lettuce
  • 15g butter
  • 1 bunch of spring onions
  • 100g cheddar cheese
  • 2 large eggs plus 2 additional yolks
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200ml whole milk
  • Salt and pepper

So at least we know now that I’m not cut out to be a pastry chef. Not that the incident in Year 9 food technology when I was caught playing cricket with a ball of puff pastry and a rolling pin didn’t already signal that but my ninth vegetarian recipe, a lettuce, spring onion and cheese tart really put paid to any suggestions that I could become the next Fiona Cairns (of Will and Kate cake baking fame).

There was a revelatory moment when this fact made itself aware. It consisted of me, moist at the brow with concentration, using strands of grated cheddar cheese to plug the holes in my ailing, failing pastry base before putting it in the oven, with a prayer, to bake blind. A sad state of affairs by anyone’s culinary standards.

The pastry (I shudder as I relive the experience) was the usual combine flour, salt, cubes of butter and some furious fingertips until breadcrumbs emerge routine before adding milk until a ball forms. Chill for 30 minutes and bake blind for 15 before removing the beans and returning for a further ten.

The filling is a simple as it comes. Heat the oil on a medium heart, add the quartered lettuce (cut side down), then season heavily and cook on both cut sides until brown and slighted wilted. Do the same to the spring onions then put both in the (in my case, dilapidated looking) pastry case.

The savoury custard that transforms pastry and lettuce into a tart is just lightly beaten eggs, yolks, cream and milk doused over the lettuce and spring onions until it reaches the edge of the pastry case. Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown whilst making sure the egg mixture is fully set in the middle.

In the end, despite the reality check delivered to my cooking career, the tart turned out just fine, the contrast of the soft peppery lettuce, short pastry and crisp cheese crust keeping my tastebuds of their toes. Put with a rocket and mozzarella salad and a mean beetroot chutney, it was a tasty and (perhaps preemptively) summery meal that I would definitely recommend.

As long as you don’t harbour hopes of being a pastry chef.