from one generation to the next
If I have zucchinis in the kitchen all is right with my world.
I just love their buttery flavour. Zucchini complements many different ingredients so it’s easy to grate, slice or chop them up, add a few simple pantry items and voila, a delicious dish of food. You can stuff zucchinis, saute them in oil, stew chunks of it in tomato, bake, barbecue or eat them raw. They make moist cake, a pate style spread, moreish (and Moorish) fritters, soup, piquant pickle, or as I have here, a yummy savoury tart. I think they are the most versatile of all vegetables. I can always create a meal when there are zucchinis in the fridge.
I’ve posted a recipe before that uses Jane Grigson”s fabulous oatmeal crust from her 1979 Vegetable Book. It’s a recipe that translates well swapping the wheat flour for spelt. It’s a robust crust but with a delicious biscuity mouth feel and sweet nutty flavour, perfect with the subtle flavour of zucchinis. The oatmeal pastry a bit tricky to handle but it’s also forgiving. It patches easily if it tears while you’re lining the flan tin, so don’t be deterred.
For my tart I sliced the zucchinis thinly on my Japanese mandolin. I lightly salted the slices and left them to drain for 30 minutes while I did a few chores and prepared the pastry. After rinsing the salt from the zucchinis I spread the slices on a clean tea towel to dry. This is an important step in their preparation. No one likes a soggy tart.
I wanted a tart that was dense with zucchini, a tart that was more vegetable than egg custard so I layered the zucchinis into the pastry base thinly, added a little custard mix and topped them with a scatter of thyme leaves, fennel seeds, lemon zest, black pepper and crumbled feta. When the tart base was full to the brim, I baked it for an hour.
My zucchini tart is best cut when warm rather than piping hot.
Zucchini tart with lemon, thyme and feta
3 medium zucchinis
125g feta cheese
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
bunch of fresh thyme
125ml light cream
freshly ground black pepper
125g ultra sifted white spelt flour
125g rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
125g cold butter, diced
Measure the oats, spelt flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to combine.
Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Add the egg to the flour and process only until the pastry forms a ball.
Very lightly knead the dough to bring it together then chill for 30 minutes.
Grease a 20cm deep fluted loose bottomed flan tin. Preheat the oven to 170C
Lightly dust the bench and rolling pin with spelt flour. Roll the dough out into a round 2-3mm thick.
Slip the dough over the rolling pin and into the flan tin.
Because the dough has a coarse texture you need to push into into the grooves of the tin. Cut it off level with the top edge*, push it into the angles and edges, mend any tears.
Using a mandolin, very finely slice the zucchinis into a colander.
Sprinkle the slices with salt as you finish each zucchini. Leave to drain for 30 minutes.
Rinse the zucchini slices, then spread them on a clean dry tea towel. Pat them dry with a second tea towel.
Whisk the eggs and cream together lightly in a jug.
Strip the thyme leaves from the stems, and finely grate the lemon zest
to construct the tart :
Lightly sprinkle the base of the flan with thyme leaves, finely grated lemon zest, whole fennel seeds and feta cheese. Top with a thin layer of zucchini slices and moisten with a couple of tablespoons of the custard mixture. Continue layering until the pastry case is full, finishing with a feta cheese layer.
Bake until the tart is golden brown and it feels firm in the middle, approximately 1 hour.
Allow to tart to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.
*The excess dough can be used to line small tart dishes and frozen until needed.