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Shortcrust pastry *One base, a thousand fillings*

Lately my cooking has been directed and biased to two types of food: pulses and chocolate.

I know, doesn't sound very appealing right? How am I supposed to get you to come back and try my recipes with this sort of comments ... before you turn your nose to this post let me explain. It's not that I like the combination of the aforementioned ingredients, although I'm very keen on trying a recipe for black bean and chocolate cookies I found recently... no, blame the weather but for the past week when I day dream of food or plan to cook something I think of hummus, black bean (soup, burgers, with eggs...) , lentil salads, farinata even roasted chickpeas as a snack and everything chocolate.

I find inspiration for my cooking in cookbooks, my pantry, the internet and my weekly food shopping but no matter how exotic the book or how inspiring and varied the website I have been unconsciously sticker marking the recipes with legumes and when I see there's chocolate in a recipe I have a quick glance through the page to see if I have the ingredients to bake it straight away.

My mum will say our bodies being so smart use cravings as their way to of telling us what nutrients we lack and we need to top up. I think there is some serious scientifically research to do about her theory so in the meantime I benefit of the fact that being the one that cooks I decide what we eat... everyday! so tomorrow, expect a dhal on the table.

But let's talk about today. Today you'll get a recipe for a delicious pie/tart base that will come handy more than you think. A staple recipe so good and so easy that will become part of your repertoire. A wholesome shortcrust pastry made of spelt and a touch of rye that can be the base of endless combinations, your imagination is the limit. This comes via Jourdan Bourke's latest cookbook, there are so many good recipes in there, check it out if you haven't, I love it!

Also a recipe for the filling: my very own one for a nice wintery tart combining the sweetness and earthiness of roasted beetroot, spinach and strong blue cheese all topped up with fresh baby rocket and a creamy tahini-cumin dressing.

A contrast of colours, flavours, textures and nutrients! Betroots boost not only your energy but your immune system to help you fight those winter colds. This little article talks about all the wonders of beetroot beyond the culinary wold.

I like to serve this for a weekend lunch with cherry tomatoes tossed with a bit of olive oil and red wine vinegar or grilled courgettes with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil.

Or for dinner with a warm lentil or quinoa salad.

Savoury Spelt and Rye Shortcrust Pastry

From Healthy Baking by Jourdan Bourke

200 gr white spelt flour

50 gr rye flour

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

120 gr unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add the chilled cubed butter and blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 2-3 tablespoons of cold water and blitz again, the dough will look more cohesive and not crumbly. Bring the dough together with your hands until it is in a smooth ball. If its is still crumbly, add a few drops of water at a time, being careful not to overdo it. Flatten the dough out into a disc, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes, until chilled but still pliable.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of floured cling film and line a 24 cm tart tin with it. Cover and chill for 15 minutes or 5 minutes in the freezer. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork, line with baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes, until the tart shell is dry and biscuity. (I've cooked it pricked with a fork but without parchment paper or beans and it does puff a little bit but once it cools down it flattens, I did a full 20 minutes, this is not the traditional way of blind baking but it saves time and doesn't affect the flavour so I'm up for it).

From here your tart shell is ready for the filling.

Beetroot, Spinach and Blue Cheese filling

2 big beetroot or 6 baby beetroot

1 bunch of fresh spinach or 1 cup frozen

1 tbsp olive oil

2 medium garlic cloves sliced finely

a pinch of chili flakes

3 large eggs, beaten,

200 ml cream

a pinch of fresh nutmeg

100 g strong blue cheese, roquefort, gorgonzola or Stilton style

Salt and pepper

1 cup fresh baby rocket

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and roast the beetroot wrapped in tin foil (you don't need to add anything else). It takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes for a big size beetroot or 30 minutes for the baby ones. Check with the tip of a knife, it should slide in easily; alternativelyif you're brave or have well seasoned fingertips, squeeze gently with your thumb and index fingers, the beetroot should give in a little bit. Let them cool down, peel and cut in eights for the big ones or halves for the small ones, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil and sliced garlic in a large pan and once the garlic starts to gain a bit of colour add the spinach and chili flakes, season and cook until the spinach wilts down. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, cream, nutmeg and season well. Proceed to assemble your tart: Arrange the spinach in a single layer over the bottom of your precooked tart shell, then the beetroot quarters or halves and chunks of blue cheese. Pour the egg mixture carefully over the vegetables and bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until it is nice and golden and the eggs have risen and the tart is set.

Let it cool down before taking it out of the tin and serve topped up with rocket and tahini dressing.

For the tahini cumin dressing

3 tbsp tahini

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp water

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed with the back of a spoon

salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk till everything is incorporated in a creamy sauce. Season to taste and serve.


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