I adore classic dishes and often like nothing more than to bake a true classic without embellishment. However, while clearing out the fridge and thinking how to use up what was left in there, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to make my twist on the brilliant Quiche Lorraine: so much for unembellishing!
For this tart I used some excellent smoked, dried ham; lightly sautéed fennel; just a little Marscapone cheese mixed with a little Gorgonzola.
As with any quiche, it is best served either warm or at room temperature- just not hot.
A wonderful smoky dried ham
I must give a shout-out to the French smoked ham that I needed to use up. This saucisson sec à l’ancienne is seriously good, with an intense flavour – a little goes a long way.
I added the ham to the softened fennel and onion for a couple of minutes: just enough to warm up and infuse the fennel and onion with a deep smoky flavour.
Go easy with the cheese!
I used a mixture of Marscapone and Gorgonzola, as that is what I had left in the fridge. The cheeses are more a seasoning rather than giving a full-on cheesy flavour here, which is more what is needed.
I have made this tart without cheese and it tastes excellent, but the general consensus here is the small amont of cheese makes it more special.
I flavoured the shortcrust pastry with fennel powder, as I love the very subtle aniseed flavour coming through, but it works with finely crushed fennel seeds, too. However, a standard shortcrust pastry is great here.
My tips and guidelines for making the pastry, lining a flan tin and baking blind (pre-cooking the pastry ready for filling) are here. I simply added 3 teaspoons of fennel powder to the flour when making up the pastry.
You can, of course, buy ready-baked pastry cases to make this even quicker to make.
Not a fennel fan?
This tart does not hit you in the face with aniseed flavour: it is certainly there, but not dominant. However, if you don’t like fennel, simply replace the fennel bulb with another onion and turn the tart into a very special smoked ham and onion tart.
Recipe: smoked ham and fennel tart
- 180g plain flour
- 90g unsalted butter (or use 45g butter & 45g lard)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 teaspoons ground fennel powder (or use mustard powder)
- cold water to mix
- 1 whole large egg
- 3 large egg yolks
- 180ml milk
- 1 teaspoon grain mustard
- 1 teaspoon fennel powder (or finely crushed fennel seeds)
- 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced thinly
- 50g smoked dried ham, chopped fairly small
- 30g Marscapone cheese
- 20g Gorgonzola cheese
- a knob of butter or a splash of vegetable oil
- salt and freshly milled black pepper
(1) Make the pastry and blind-bake it (see Pastry notes above the recipe). Leave the cooked pastry in the tin and place on a solid baking sheet. Alternatively, use a bought pastry cake. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 140C (fan).
(2) Fry the ham for a few minutes in the butter or oil: a lot of the great smoky flavour from the ham will infuse the fat and add extra flavour to the tart.
(3) Remove the ham and add the fennel and onion. Cook gently for about 20 minutes until they have softened. Spoon into the pastry case and scatter over the ham.
(4) Whisk together the mustard, fennel powder (or seeds), cheeses, milk, the whole egg and the egg yolks. Pour over the pastry case, coming almost to the top of the pastry and place in the oven.
NB: to avoid spillage, it might be easier putting the tart in the oven on the baking sheet and then pouring the liquid straight into the tart while it is in the oven.
(5) Cook for about 45-50 minutes: the filling should have just set, yet have a gentle wobble: it will carry on cooking slightly when it comes out of the oven and firm up a little more. Serve warm or at room temperature.