The stunning whitewashed town of Tarifa forms part of the glittering municipality of Cádiz where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet – known as Costa de la Luz, the coast of light. Here, the winds can be phenomenally strong so, by day people head to the stunning windswept beach to surf – by board or by kite – and, as dusk falls, refreshed and giddy with an endearing sense of their bronzed and windswept beauty, they head to the shelter of the beautiful curved streets to gather outside cool cafés and contemporary hotels to eat, drink and watch the world go by. The sounds of laughter and music – a mix of Flamenco and North African – float through the languid air and, after an hour or two, one is totally immersed within a culture that is uniquely local. That of the Moors, the Arab-Andalusians and Arabs. It was at one of those cafés that I was offered a tapas of artichoke hearts mixed with Manchego cheese, a knockout combination that I remembered sampling in the shadows of the mighty Alhambra in Granada. For this recipe, I’ve added some leeks and crème fraîche to create a beautiful savoury sweet tart. The addition of tarragon here isn’t traditional but I simply cannot resist the combination of the herb with leeks and eggs and I personally think that it makes this dish.
For the pastry:
100g unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
For the filling:
500g leeks, trimmed and finely sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Knob of salted butter
1 can of artichoke hearts in water, drained and cut into quarters
4 large free range eggs
240ml crème fraîche
120g Manchego cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped (optional)
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
How I make it
Heat an oven to 180C.
To make the pastry, place the flour into a medium bowl and add the butter. Using your fingertips, rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Gently incorporate the beaten egg and knead the whole lot into a right ball. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Line a 25cm loose bottomed tart tin with the pastry, prick the bottom and line with greaseproof paper. Cover with dried beans and place the tin in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside and remove the beans when the pastry shell has cooled.
In the meantime, place a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted, turn the heat down, add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Sautée, stirring frequently until soft and transparent (around 15 minutes). Take off the heat and set aside.
Prepare the filling by gently beating the eggs. Add the leaks, two thirds of the cheese, the crème fraîche and the tarragon (if using). Combine everything together and season to your taste.
Pour the mixture into the tart case. Arrange the artichokes over the top, pushing them down as far as they will go. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes until the egg mixture is set and the top is golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before serving.