Leek & onion tarts

IMG_1024 (600 x 425).jpgNo posts for 18 days, now two come along at once.

To be truthful, posting on the blog allows me to sit in air-conditioned bliss at the kitchen counter, feeling as though I am doing something slightly useful (while attempting to ignore the fact that there is a pile of ironing in the spare bedroom so big that it’s starting to block out the daylight).

Today is a half-day holiday before Eid Al-Fitr, the feast that follows the month of fasting during Ramadan, or Ramazan as it is called here. Known in Turkey as Şeker Bayramı, literally ‘sugar festival’, the local children will be out early tomorrow morning, knocking on their neighbours’ doors, looking for sweets and pennies. Watch out for tomorrow’s easy chocolate muffin recipe, which I’ll be cooking up for any children passing this way.

Normally, Kaş would be packed to the gills this week, with visitors from Istanbul and Ankara, but this season is very slow, and last week’s dreadful terrorist attack in Istanbul did nothing to help the situation. We shall have to see what the season brings – the Turkish schools closed for the summer ten days ago, but many families will have waited until the end of Ramazan to head for the coast, so things may pick up this week.

In view of the intense heat here in the summer, I generally try to produce food that I can cook in the morning or afternoon, leaving only a simple side dish of rice or new potatoes to be cooked to go alongside it. Apart from the heat, the enormous demand on electricity during the evening peak period means that, even with an efficient regulator, the supply is often not sufficient to power up the oven. When several thousand households on a single sub-station turn on their air con as well as their ovens, the grid just cannot cope – a bit like half-time on FA Cup day in the UK, only repeated every evening during July and August. Once when my young niece was here in August and asked for Yorkshire puddings, we had to switch off everything in the house apart from a single light where we were sitting on the terrace, to try to conjure up enough electricity for the oven to cook the puds. Never again!

So, last night’s supper was a simple tart, filled with caramelised onions and leeks, which I baked during the afternoon and served cold with a salad. With the bread and butter pudding that followed, Linda and I were slightly concerned about whether or not we could become egg-bound, but our friend Babs tells us that only hens can be egg-bound – I don’t know how she knows that, but I believe her.

I already had my tart cases in the freezer – whenever I have bits of leftover pastry, I use it to line individual tart tins, then leave them in the freezer until I have enough of them for a meal – it’s a simple job then just to make the filling and bake them. Most UK supermarkets sell ready-made tart cases, or you could use ready-made pastry to make your own.

I decided not to use cheese in my tart, as I was serving it with a rocket, goat’s cheese and walnut salad, but by all means grate over some cheddar or Gruyère, or whatever takes your fancy, before you put them in the oven.

Leek & onion tarts (makes 4)

4 tart cases
2 leeks, halved lengthways and finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
1 knob of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sprigs of fresh thyme or half a teaspoon of dried thyme or oregano
2 eggs
150ml milk or a mix of cream and milk
Salt & pepper
A grating of nutmeg (optional)
A handful of grated cheese of your choice (optional)

Heat the oil and butter in a saute pan over a medium heat, and add the sliced onions and leeks. Season with salt and pepper and the leaves of a few sprigs of thyme (or half a teaspoon of dried thyme or oregano). Leave to cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks and onions start to soften.

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Add about a tablespoon of water and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, until the onions and leeks are a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you heat the oven and make the custard.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Break the eggs into a jug and add the milk (and cream, if using). Season with salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg if you like (it goes really well with the eggs and leeks).

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Line a baking tray  with foil and stand the tart tins on top of the foil – if you have loose-bottomed tart tins, this stops any leakage from making a mess. (If you are using ready-made pastry cases, use a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and simply stand the cases on top).

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Divide the leek and onion mix between the tart cases. (You will notice that my four cases have mysteriously been reduced to three – one had a crack the size of the Grand Canyon when it came out of the freezer, so I decided to bin it – the remaining three therefore had slightly too much filling, but how can that be a bad thing?) Gently pour the custard over the filling and then bake for about 20 – 35 minutes, turning half way through if one side is browning more than the other.

Leave to cool completely before serving.

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