There is a wood near my house where the trees are evergreen, carved into expanses by footpaths lined with elder, beech and oak. The ground is so soft it deadens almost all sound, even the wind. Here, mushrooms grow from late summer until early winter. On days when I return with a small haul, I make this tart – one of my absolute favourites.
butter 1 knob
extra virgin olive oil 2 tbsp
dried ceps 20g, soaked for 20-25 minutes in warm water to rehydrate, then drained, soaking water reserved
mushrooms 250g, a mixture of wild and cultivated is fine
flat-leaf parsley 1 tbsp, chopped
thyme leaves 2 tsp
onion 1 large, thinly sliced
garlic 2 cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
double cream 185ml
eggs 2, plus 1 egg yolk
parmesan or hard, aged sheep’s cheese a scattering
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the shortcrust pastry
plain flour 300g
butter 150g, cubed and chilled
fine salt a pinch
chilled water about 150ml
First, make the shortcrust pastry. Pulse the flour, butter and salt in a food processor to the consistency of breadcrumbs. With the motor running, steadily add the water, stopping as soon as the dough comes together. Remove the dough, knead it a couple of times, then wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 180C fan/gas mark 6. Roll the chilled dough into a thin round large enough to line a 24cm loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin, with an overhang. Prick the base, then line the pastry with baking parchment and baking beans and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove the parchment and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, or until the base is dry and lightly coloured. Trim any overhanging pastry from the tart and set aside.
Next, make the filling. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the butter and half the oil. When the fat is bubbling away, add both the soaked and fresh mushrooms, along with the parsley and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the mushrooms around the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened.
Tip the mushrooms into a large bowl, then return the pan to the heat, add the remaining oil, and the onion and garlic and fry gently for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion is soft.
Add all but the last spoonful (which may be gritty) of the mushroom liquid to the onion mixture and reduce until it’s almost gone. Combine the onion with the mushrooms, and season.
Put the cream, eggs and egg yolk in a bowl, season, then combine to form a custard. Fill the tart case with the onion and mushroom mixture and pour over the custard. Don’t worry if a few mushrooms poke out.
Scatter over a gesture of cheese and bake the tart for 30-35 minutes, until it has a mottled golden top and is slightly raised. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.
From Time by Gill Meller (Quadrille, £27)