I’ve been experimenting lately with flavoured butters. While delici­ous spread on warm bread (which is how most people eat them), they are also good in cooked dishes. Using piment d’Espelette butter in a savoury tart dough adds another dimension – it’s not just the filling that has flavour, but also the crust. You can find piment d’Espelette butter at City’super and Fresh Mart, in Sogo. This dough goes well with vegetarian fillings (try it in a tart with leftover ratatouille), and in fish and shellfish tarts, all of which use a delicate custard as a binder.


When I made this tart, I was surprised at how much filling it needed. The vegetables shrink considerably when roasted, so one tart used an entire head of cauliflower (cut into pieces) and two packs of button mushrooms.

For the pâte brisée:
180 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
½ tsp granulated sugar
125 grams piment d’Espelette butter, chilled
About 40ml iced water

For the filling:
1 head (about 750 grams) cauliflower
450 grams button mushrooms
1 head of garlic
Olive oil, as needed

For the custard:
2 large eggs
160ml cream
160ml milk
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Piment d’Espelette, for sprinkling

Make the pâte brisée. Put the flour and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Cut the piment d’Espelette butter into 1cm chunks and add them to the flour mixture, then pulse the food processor until the butter is about the size of small peas. Transfer the ingredients to a bowl and drizzle with 40ml of iced water. Mix with your finger­tips until the mixture forms a cohesive dough without any dry spots; if needed, add a little more iced water. Knead the dough lightly then shape it into a disc, wrap it with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour (although longer is better).

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While the dough is resting, start preparing the filling. Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius. Cut the floret portion of the cauliflower head into 2cm to 2.5cm pieces. Cut the stem portion of the cauli­flower into 1.5cm pieces. Put all the cauli­flower pieces into a bowl then drizzle with about 30ml of olive oil and mix by hand coating the pieces lightly. Sprinkle with a little salt and mix again, then spread the cauliflower in one layer on a baking tray. Quarter or halve the large and medium-size button mushrooms (leave the smaller ones whole) then put them in the bowl used for the cauliflower (no need to wash it). Break the head of garlic into individual cloves, leaving on the papery peel, and add them to the bowl. Drizzle with about 20ml of olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt and mix by hand.

Put the mushrooms and garlic onto a baking tray. Put the trays holding the cauli­flower and the mushroom and garlic in the pre-heated oven. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the ingredients are shrivelled and slightly browned in spots (about 25 minutes for the mush­room and garlic and 35 minutes for the cauliflower). Cool to room temperature. Pull off and discard the garlic peel, leaving behind the flesh. If the garlic cloves are very large, tear them into two or three pieces. Turn the oven to 200 degrees.

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If the dough is very hard, knead it briefly with your hands, so it’s cold but pliable. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a round-ish shape that’s about 3mm thick. Carefully lay the dough over a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, settling it into the pan’s contours without stretching the dough. The pan should be 24cm in dia­meter and 2.75cm high. Double over the dough at the sides of the pan, pressing firmly so the layers adhere and to make the sides an even thickness. Trim off the overhang so the dough is flush with the edge of the pan. Chill for 30 minutes.

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Use a fork to poke holes at 1cm intervals over the bottom of the tart shell then place a sheet of alum­inium foil directly on the crust, fitting it into the contours. Pour uncooked rice over the aluminium foil, so the rice makes an even layer about 1cm deep. Bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes then turn the heat to 180 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes then carefully lift out the aluminium foil and rice. Bake the shell for about 10 more minutes, to dry out the surface of the dough. Take the tart shell from the oven and put it on a rack to cool. Leave the oven on.

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In a bowl, whisk the eggs with some salt and pepper, then whisk in the cream and milk. Pour the custard mixture into a measuring jug with a spout.

Pack the cauliflower, mushroom and garlic into the baked tart shell. If the shell is the right size, almost all the vege­tables will fit. Put the filled tart shell on the bottom shelf of the oven and carefully and slowly pour in the custard until it reaches the brim of the crust without spilling out. (If you were to pour in the custard before moving the tart into the oven, the custard would easily slosh out.) Bake at 180 degrees for 45 min­utes to one hour, or until the custard is set – it should be just a little wobbly at the centre. Take the tart from the oven and put it on a rack. Dust it lightly with piment d’Espelette, then cool it for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot or warm.

Leftover pastry dough can be wrapped and chilled, then re-rolled to make small tart shells.

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