I’ve been obsessed with eating nettles for a little while now, so I’m always after a new way of preparing them! This is a tasty tart that’s filling enough for a main meal where you’ll want to serve it with a salad (it’s pretty rich!)
I actually made this with my Mum as I wanted to learn our family’s shortcrust recipe (actually belonging to my Dad’s mum – Una Lucas). While catching up with Mum she showed me her first cook book!
Una’s Short Crust Pastry
10oz plain flour (approx 300g)
2oz S.R. flour (approx 50g)
6oz butter (approx 150g)
3 tbsp cold water
1 whole egg
(and if making a sweet short crust add 1 tbsp of caster sugar)
I found this left enough shortcrust over to do almost another tart…maybe a dessert?
First up you need to rub the diced butter into the sieved flours and salt. This helps to coat the flour and prevents the gluten forming. VERY important as while we want gluten when making bread it’s the enemy of delicate short crust pastry! Okay now give the egg a quick whisk then add it and the cold water to a well in the flour mix…
Using a cold knife helps to keep your warm hands off the mix, and cutting the ingredients together rather than kneading helps prevent the dreaded gluten forming! Once the mix is just starting to come together, tip onto a dusted surface. Gently knead until it just forms a ball…well kind of a ball.
Wack some plastic wrap or a damp tea towel around the pastry and pop it in the fridge for approx 30 minutes.
This gives plenty of time to prepare the other ingredients:
8-10 slices of pancetta (chopped)
1 large leek (sliced, mainly the white)
2 spring onions (sliced)
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
Approx 400 grams of tender stinging nettles (I harvested around a 9 litre bucket loosely filled and this was the correct amount) These need to be dropped in boiling water for a few seconds to lose their stings, then you can go ahead and chop the leaves off the stems.
150g nice cheddar or Gruyere cheese (grated)
50g parmeson (grated)
150ml pure cream
seasonal herbs (I used dill this time around)
Asparagus – trimmed to fit (about half a small bunch)
Cook the diced pancetta and once the fat yields, pop in your garlic and spring onions – you won’t need extra oil. Squeeze the excess water out of your nettles and chop them finely
Take your nice and chilly pastry out of the fridge and roll it out until it’s big enough to fit comfortably over a pie dish. I’ve used a 23cm pie dish that’s around 5cm deep.
Gently push the base down and use a spoon or fork if you’re feeling like making fancy patterns.
Now you NEED to blind bake this pastry so it stays nice and firm after cooking. Pop some baking paper in and cover with beans (keep using the same ones)
Blind bake for about 15 minutes in a 180 C fan forced oven
While that’s going on you can whisk the three eggs, milk and cream. Add the chopped herbs too.
Once your shortcrust is done take the beans out and if the base is still soft, pop it back bean-less for another 5 mins.
From here it’s an easy few steps of assembly. Put the nettle and pancetta mix in first.
Then cheeses and finally the milk/cream mix and top it off by pushing in the asparagus spears…
Drop the oven temp to around 160 degrees for a fan-forced unit and cook for a further 30-40 minutes until just set and golden.