I couldn’t let British Food Fortnight pass by without making something ever so British in its honour. I’ve had this recipe flying around in my head for some time and it seemed perfect for the job. What could be more fitting than tangy, creamy Stilton; only made in the three counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire from locally produced milk, with a couple of the conference pears that are in season right now, all combined in a creamy, thyme scented sauce. I encased everything in this foolproof pastry, which was so unbelievably simple that I was intrigued as to whether it would work. Well, it did – although the pastry was rather crumbly when still warm. It firms up beautifully when cool however. I guess it just depends on how you like your pastry really; Chris preferred it crumbly and warm, I liked it cool. I think you also get more nuttiness from it this way and the pears are much more of a prominent flavour. Still, it didn’t matter really because there was plenty to linger over and talk about.
I must say, I was very proud of the tart in the end, it warmed us both inside. It balloons up in the oven almost like a soufflé and then gradually sinks back down leaving ridges in the golden cheese on top.
I’m warning you now, the wait between removing it from the oven and it being cool enough to unleash from the tin and eat is excruciating -10-15 minutes passed by like an hour.
When I make the tart again, I will add a dash of port when I soften the shallots, just to let them absorb that rich boozy flavour which will complement everything in the tart so well and just give it that extra base flavour.
Stilton and Pear Tart with Walnut Pastry
You will need a 23cm/9inch loose bottomed tart tin.
8 oz stilton cheese, crumbled
2 conference pears, skins removed and sliced (1-2 cm thickness)
284ml single cream
2 large eggs
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
For the pastry
150g plain flour
120g butter, chilled and diced
1 teaspoon icing sugar
Salt and pepper
Making the pastry
-Put all the ingredients for the pastry into a food processor and blend until it resembles fine crumbs.
-Tip into the flan dish and press down with the back of a metal spoon until it covers the base and sides of the tin.
-Chill in the fridge for around an hour or so. Remember to cover the tart base with cling film, as you don’t want it to absorb the flavours from the fridge.
-Preheat the oven to gas 4
-Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. If the pastry begins to slip down the sides of the tart tin when cooking, the original recipe advises that you push it back up with a metal spoon. This didn’t happen when I made it however.
-Remove and allow to cool slightly. Turn the heat up to gas 5.
Making the filling
-Soften the shallots in 1 tbsp olive oil until translucent then spread them over the base of the tart.
-Arrange the sliced pears on top of this in a circular pattern.
-Whisk the cream and eggs together, and then mix in the thyme, cheese and lots of salt and pepper.
-Carefully pour the cheese mixture into the tart base (I found I had a little bit left that wouldn’t fit in) and then bake at gas 5 for 30-40 minutes until just set. If you insert a skewer into the centre of the tart, it should come out clean if cooked.-Leave for 10-15 minutes before attempting to remove from the tin. No really, you must.