Young Leek, Pecorino and Ginger Appetite-inspired Tart
“First I made a tart of some tender young leeks, sweet butter, some fresh pecorino, galangal and sugar. When the watercress arrived I had a green sauce made, chopping it finely with parsley and mint and garlic, mashing it with vinegar and passing it through a sieve.”
-Philip Kazan, Appetite
I read Philip Kazan’s highly-enjoyable book about Nino Latini, a fifteenth century chef from Florence, born with a highly calibrated sense of taste, a creative imagination, and astoundingly bad judgement, with a mouth constantly refreshed with renewed streams of saliva.
A fifteenth century tart of tender leeks
This was one of the dishes described which I thought could be reproduced without requiring a whole army of kitchen skivvies of one kind or another. It makes a good starter, and also an excellent lunch served either with a watercress or rocket salad, or with a green sauce made from either of those peppery leaves.
What is galangal?
Nino specifies galangal for his leek tart but these days this root is difficult to come by. It’s a plant, originating in Indonesia and related to ginger, so, although the taste is significantly different, ginger is the best and most easily available substitute.
Recipe for tart of leeks, pecorino and ginger
Serves 4 for lunch
- 1 x 320g/12 oz sheet of puff pastry – or 2 x 210g/8 oz sheets (you may have a little left over – in which case buy a little extra cheese and make into cheese straws) – or 1 x 375g/14 oz Tesco sheet – which has the advantage of being already rolled onto baking paper. Use all-butter puff pastry if you can find it.
- 150g/6 oz goats’ cheese – at room temperature
- 180g/6 oz cream cheese
- 2 young leeks, cleaned and sliced
- walnut of butter
- 6 sundried tomatoes – sliced across
- 175g/6 oz chargrilled artichokes, cut into quarters. If these come in olive oil, save the oil and use it to add to the butter when you’re frying the leeks, or to use for making the the salsa verde, or if you’re making a watercress or rocket salad to serve with this, use it to make the dressing
- 100g/4 oz pecorino, grated
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1 x egg beaten, or a little milk
- Preheat your oven to 210°C (use the top right Aga oven).
- Fry the leeks in the butter until soft.
- Add the sundried tomatoes and the ginger.
- Unroll the pastry onto a greased baking tray and score a border around it which is about a centimetre/½” wide – don’t cut right through the pastry. Alternatively make individual tartlets.
- Brush the border with the beaten egg, or with a little milk.
- Spread the cream cheese, followed by the goats’ cheese within the scored border, and then over it spread the leek mixture.
- Arrange the artichoke quarters over.
- Sprinkle over the grated pecorino.
- Bake for about twenty minutes, but check after fifteen – the cheese should begin to bubble and turn golden and the pastry border will have puffed up.