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:
225g good quality plain flour
Half tsp salt
130g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
1-2 tbsp ice cold water
For the filling:
1 kg 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, put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Transfer it to a bowl, add the egg yolk and just enough of the water to bring the dough together. Place onto a floured surface and roll out enough to line a 25cm loose bottomed tart tin allowing the excess pastry to trail over the edge of the tin. Place in the fridge for half an hour.
Heat an oven to 180C.
Cover the pastry case with a sheet of baking parchment and fill with dried beans. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and return the case to the oven for around four minutes to allow the pastry to dry out.
Trim the excess pastry from the sides to leave a neat edge to your tart. Set aside to cool.
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 leeks, 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.