Sweet crab, peppery rocket, and salty parmesan cheese baked over flakey shortcrust pastry.
If you’ve ever made a classic lemon tart or even a creme brulee than you’ll recognise the method used in this recipe. The only sweet element in this though is the luscious crab meat that’s been encased in a rich and creamy savoury custard infused with a deeply flavoured fish stock. This is a tart that tastes of the sea….
Tarts like these aren’t that difficult to make but crucial to their success are a filling that is just set and a pastry base thats crisp. You want to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom at all costs. This can be difficult when you’re pouring a wet mix on to pastry thats already cooked. To make sure your pastry remains crisp roll it out thinly and when you bake it blind remove the parchment brush it with beaten egg and cook it again till its golden brown.
While we’re talking about baking blind that is indeed arborio rice you see in the photo above. I had nothing else to hand, no kidney beans, long grain rice, or anything cheaper. Plus I was too lazy to make another trip to the shops.
Its only now, as I write this that I remember I could’ve used flour. It’s ideal for this purpose you can pack it into the corners of the tart ring and fill it up so it weighs down the pastry..and it would of meant I could have some risotto for lunch tomorrow. Theres also these Ceramic beads you can get which are great as they retain heat and help cook the pastry a little quicker, plus they can be cleaned and used again and again… I might have to invest in some.
Another small issue when you’re making tarts is pastry shrinkage. You can often end up a little disappointed after you bake the base blind only to see the pastry has shrunk away from the top of the tart ring. Theres a real easy fix for this…..just let the pastry overhang on the outside of the ring and don’t remove the excess till you’re finished cooking the tart.
Tarts like these don’t like to wait around and the pastry will go soggy given enough time..it really is best to eat this about an hour after it comes out of the oven, while its still just warm and the filling just set and jelly like.
I used a shortcrust pastry for this tart and it works well, but feel free to use whatever type of pastry you like, even a store bought one if you’re tight for time. I haven’t give a recipe for shortcrust pastry here….I reckon there’s already enough out there in cyber space without adding another.
The recipe below serves four and one slice will probably be enough for a portion as its quite rich and filling. Don’t be tempted to season it either…theres plenty of salt from the parmesan and fish stock can be a bit salty too. When i eat this I like to accompany it with a simple salad that’s been tossed in a tart vinaigrette, it cuts through the richness of the tart beautifully.
While I was making this tart I was reminded of how much I enjoy baking and pastry work. I have a good grasp of the basics but I’m not a pastry chef by any stretch. Over the years I’ve been lucky and have worked with some really gifted and creative pastry chefs but it’s cooking the simple stuff like this tart that always gives me the most satisfaction.
For the amounts listed you will need a tart ring 8 inches wide by 1 inch deep
150 g (5 oz) shortcrust pastry
1 beaten egg
4 egg yolks
160 ml (3/4 cup) cream
160 ml (3/4 cup) fish stock
200 g (7 oz) crab meat
50 g (2 oz) parmesan cheese (finely grated)
20 g (3/4 oz) rocket
1 bunch of chives finely sliced
Preheat your oven 160c / 320f.
First brush the bottom and sides of your tart ring with a little melted butter.
Next roll out your shortcrust pastry to a thickness of 5 mm (1/4 inch)
Gently line the tart ring with the pastry pressing it into the sides. Leave it to rest in the fridge for at least a half an hour.
Take the pastry from the fridge and prick it with a fork. Then line the tart ring with some baking parchment and put rice (or whatever you like to use to bake blind) on top to keep the pastry weighed down.
Cook the tart base for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment and rice, brush it with the beaten egg and return it to your oven for a further 10 minutes. Before you take it out make sure its cooked and has a nice golden colour.
Next its time to make the filling – Beat together the egg yolks, cream, and fish stock. Whisk well to make sure everything is mixed together then stir in the parmesan.
Next squeeze the crab meat and dry it well on a tea towel, the idea here is to remove as much moisture as possible. The reason being it will seep out as the tart cooks and interfere with the consistency of the filling.
Mix the crab meat, rocket, and chives together and spoon the mix into the pastry case.
Move the pastry case to the middle shelf of your oven and pour in the savoury custard mix right up to the top. If you did this bit on your countertop you’ll probably spill a bit as you move the tart to the oven
Turn your oven down to 120 c / 250 f and bake for about an hour till the centre of the tart is just set and wobbles slightly
Remove the tart from the oven….allow to cool for half an hour and enjoy
Alternative fish – smoked salmon, shrimps or mussels all work well in tarts
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