One of the few things I actually like about winter approaching is that I get to pull out one of my favourite frosty weather cookbooks, Roast Figs, Sugar Snow by Diana Henry. This beautiful little collection of wintry recipes from the colder climates of the world – from Quebec and New England to Scandinavia and Russia – is filled with stunning photography which actually makes you yearn for snow, as well as recipes that are a little bit out of the ordinary. Nothing I’ve made from this book has ever let me down.
That includes this fabulous pumpkin and spinach tart. In the book it’s a crisp, all-butter tart with a veg and gorgonzola filling, but due to my own preferences and pathological hatred of smelly cheeses, I’ve adapted it fairly liberally, swapping a flakier base and turning to goat’s cheese as the supporting player to the spinach and pumpkin (though squash would be equally delicious).
This tart is a showstopper that’s as lovely to look at as it is to eat. While baking, it puffs up all big and proud, and the filling is soft and pillowy once you bite in. I know vegetarians often get stuck with a tart as the default option for a special dinner, especially come holiday time, and I think it can be a bit of a cop out. I mean, can’t we come up with anything else that says 'festive'? But I make an exception for this tart. It deserves pride of place at the table. It definitely had pride of place in my tummy this week!
Pumpkin, Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Tart
Makes one 10-inch tart
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp vegetable shortening, very cold (you can swap in part butter for less flake but better flavour)
4 Tbsp ice water
450 g (1 lb) pumpkin or squash
250 g spinach
2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
250 ml double or whipping cream
50 g Parmesan cheese, grated
100 g goat’s cheese
To make the pastry: Put the shortening, flour and salt into a food processor and pulse until the fat is just cut in; some pieces should be very small and some much bigger, the size of fat peas. Pulsing the machine on and off, add about 3 Tbsp of the ice water, and pulse to work it into the dough. Add a bit more water if necessary – the dough should stick together when pinched and look evenly moistened. Scrape the dough onto a work surface, shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Let it rest in the fridge at least 30 minutes.
To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Cut your pumpkin in broad slices, remove the stringy insides and peel the slices. Lay the slices in a roasting tray and brush with olive oil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until just tender. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Wash and destalk the spinach (if necessary), and wilt in the boiling water, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
Meanwhile make the custard by mixing together the eggs, egg yolk, cream, nutmeg and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Now prepare the vegetables: cut the pumpkin into small pieces (I like large cubes), then squeeze all the water out of the spinach and chop it up.
To assemble and bake the tart: The oven should be on at 180C / 350F. Roll out the rested pastry and line a 10 inch tart tin. Chill for another 15 to 20 minutes. Prick the bottom and sides of the tart shell with a fork, line the shell with parchment or foil and fill with beans, and bake blind in the oven for 7 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake another 4 minutes, until the bottom of the shell is dry but not coloured.
Spread the pumpkin and spinach over the bottom of the tart shell then dot with nuggets of goat’s cheese. Pour the custard mixture over the top – it should come almost to the top of the tin but not quite. Bake for around 40 minutes, until the top is brown and the pastry edges are golden. Let it cool for 10 minutes to finish setting.