Chicken, chorizo and sweetcorn, in a rich sauce and wrapped up in crisp, buttery puff pastry, giving a savoury tart that is wonderful served hot for any meal or cold for a buffet or picnic.
Whether you call this a strudel (but with puff pastry rather than filo pastry) or a puff pastry plait, this is nonetheless something of a blast from the past. That said, I would never turn down a decent dish, no matter how much it flirts with retro!
I had not actually made pastry plaits in years until recently, but I now teach Food and Nutrition (in addition to the Maths I have always taught), and this was one of the bakes with my Year 9 students. So naturally I wanted to make it ahead for a “here’s something I prepared earlier” moment to show them the stages, while they then set off to make their versions with different fillings.
Fillings for plaited tarts or studels:
You can have either sweet or savoury fillings and these can be almost anything you have to hand, the only limits being your imagination!
I prefer to have a sauce of sorts to bind everything together and give a succulent filling. You don’t need much, but the sauce does need to be quite thick so that it doesn’t ooze out too much through the lattice work during the baking.
For savoury fillings, make a normal white sauce, as you might make for lasagne or cauliflower cheese, but double the amount of flour.
I sometimes like to have a filling using left-overs from a roast dinner, using gravy with the filling to add moistness. My roast dinner pithivier recipe, shaped differently but with a filling that work well in a lattice pastry, can be found here.
For sweet fillings, go for an element of moisture in there (but not too much) or if using dry ingredients, bind with thick custard or crème pâtissière.
With apples, for example, just cook them until slightly pulpy but with a bit of texture, as this will be moist enough, sweeting to taste.
Some fillings I have used that work very well include:
- apples and pecans with a touch of cinnamon
- smoked haddock, leeks, hard-boiled eggs and cooked rice in a lightly curried white sauce (kedgeree-style!)
- roasted cauliflower in a mustardy cheese sauce
The plait effect is very easy to achieve and I have given step-by-step photographs in the recipe below.
However, if you don’t fancy a plait, simply cover just under half of the pastry with the filling, leaving a pastry border all around, brush the exposed pastry with egg-wash and fold over the filling, stretching gently if you need to, before sealing all around.
Or go for a pithivier, which is essentially a sheet of pastry draped over the filling.
Either way, brush the top of the pastry with egg-wash, score lightly with a sharp knife and bake as in the recipe below.
Recipe: chicken, chorizo & sweetcorn plaited tart – makes one large tart
- 500g all-butter puff pastry
- about 200g thick white sauce (see above)
- small tin sweetcorn, drained
- 1 large onion, peeled and fairly thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 4 chicken thighs, skinned, boned and chopped into smallish pieces (no more than about an long inch) – or use 2 large chicken breasts
- about 70g chorizo, chopped into small chunks
- a few fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1 beaten egg
- 1-2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- a teaspoon or so of black onion seeds (optional)
- some freshly chopped parsley
You will also need a large baking sheet and a large sheet of baking parchment
(1) Fry the onions and garlic until soft and golden brown. Add the chorizo and chicken for about 10 mins, until chicken is almost cooked. Mix with rest of filling and leave to cool fully.
NB: having the chicken almost cooked, rather than fully cooked, means it will remain succulent once it has baked in the tart. If you want to check the filling for seasoning, taste it before you add the chicken.
(2) Roll out pastry thinly to a large rectangle: you don’t need to measure it, but if you want to go for about 45cm by 30cm as a guide. Trim the edges and place the baking parchment on the work surface. Lay the pastry rectangle on top with the short edge facing you:
(3) Leaving about 4cm of pastry at the top and bottom, spoon the filling down the centre of the pastry, taking up just over a quarter of the width of the pastry:
(4) Make a diagonal cut from the top left part of the filling to the top left corner of the pastry. Repeat on the right-hand side, to give a wide triangle at the top:
(5) Cut diagonal strips parallel to these cuts down both sides of the filling, starting at the top and stopping when you get to the bottom of the filling. Make sure you have the same number of cuts on each side. Cut to about half a centimetre from the filling.
NB: I go for about 1cm wide, but you can make them wider. Don’t worry if they are not perfect!
(6) When you get to the bottom of the filling , trim the pastry to give an exposed rectangle that is a little wider than the width of the filling. You can sprinkle these trapezium off-cuts with cheese and bake them!
(7) Brush all over the pastry and the strips with the beaten egg and fold the bottom rectangle of exposed pastry up over the filling, lightly pressing down on the pastry on the either side of the filling: this pastry flap will stop the filling from bursting out of the bottom.
(8) Fold the top triangle of pastry over the filling and press this in place.
(9) Starting at the bottom, take a strip and fold it up over the pastry flap, stretching if you need to so it comes right over the filling to the opposite side. Take the corresponding strip from the other side of the filling and fold this over the first strip, giving a criss-cross. I go from left to right.
(10) Repeat with the remaining strips, each time lifting them over the filling and criss-crossing until you are at the top.
(11) Lift onto a large baking tray using the baking paper to help you lift it: the pastry is very well-behaved and will keep its shape very easily. Brush all over with beaten egg and chill until you want to bake it.
(12) When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200C(fan). Brush with a little more egg, sprinkle with a little Parmesan and onion seeds, if using. Bake for 15 minutes, before turning the temperature down to 180C(fan) and continuing to bake for another 15-20 minutes until the pastry is deep golden brown.