The first thing to get ready was the Little Leek Tarts. These seemed very simple to make – a leek puree baked in puff pastry (bought, I might add) plus a bit of salad of my own doing. I imagined them to be quite contemporary actually – many restaurants seem to have some kind of tart as a starter these days.
This recipe makes between 12 and 24 tarts, depending how much filling you put in each one:
Begin by trimming and cleaning some leeks – you need 2 pounds trimmed weight (this may seem a lot, but they melt down and concentrate). Chop them up and add them to a heavy-based pan that has 2 generous ounces of butter melted in it. Cover the pan tightly and allow to stew slowly for about 10 or 15minutes. Check inside and stir – the leek should not have changed colour, just reduced in volume. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes with the lid off so that the leeks lose their wetness. This is important to concentrate the flavour. Whilst this is happening cut out circles of puff pastry to line small tart tins and heat the oven to 220°C. Liquidise the leeks and season with salt and pepper and stir through a couple of tablespoons of double cream. Divide the mixture out between the pastry cases and sprinkle a teaspoon of grated Cheddar or Wensleydale cheese over them. Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve immediately. To look a bit more swish, I added rocket that had been dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
In reality, we made them first, but actually baked them when everyone arrived and the pheasants had finished cooking.
FYI: the leek became the national ‘flower’ of Wales after a Welsh King called Cadwaladr (c. 633–682) apparently ordered his soldiers to wear them on their helmets in a battle against the Saxons that took place in a leek field! This story is probably nonsense, but the best ones usually are...
#121 Little Leek Tarts – 8.5/10. Absolutely delicious! So often are leeks just used as a stock or soup vegetable; this recipe let them shine. The leek puree was light but creamy and went very well with the rich pastry. The only problem (and it was my problem, not the recipes) was that it was very slightly gritty – I obviously rushed the rinsing of a few of the leeks. Oopsey! Oh well, I have learned from my errors and have therefore become a better person because of it. Whatever.