Christmas Eve dinner at our household is always a casual affair for our family – the calm before the storm of Christmas night. Oysters are always a permanent fixture (3 dozen of them and always Sydney Rock) and two huge Scotch fillets added the heavy richness to the night.
The vegetable element was severely lacking (my philosophy has always been you don’t make friends with salad). Vegetarian dishes aren’t my area of expertise, so drawing inspiration from Not Quite Nigella and her Cheese and Leek Tart, I decided upon something similar. I admit I have never ate or cooked with leek or fennel before but now I’m a big fan and am now hunting down for more recipes.
With a few personal tweaks of my own, most notably the omission of cheese and mustard (for my mom’s sake) and the addition of fennel (out of curiosity), I can now safely say that despite my aversion to most things vegetable, I was gorging this down and still wanted more.
Oh and in case you wanted to know, the barbequed scotch fillet was perfectly washed down with a superb bottle of red – Hewitson 2004 ‘Miss Harry‘ Barossa Valley (S.A.) – a drinkable blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre.
Even better were the luscious oysters – some served with rock salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon and others served with a splash of tobasco – complemented with something sweet and effervescent. In this case a chilled glass of Brown Brothers 2008 Moscato Rosa (Milawa, VIC.) – the perfect alternative to sparkling wine or Champagne.
Fennel and Leek Tart
1 sheet of shortcrust pastry
2 leeks – washed and sliced
2 fennel bulbs
salt and pepper
1/2 C cream
Preheat oven to 200°C.
To prepare the fennel, pull off the leaves and reserve, trim off the stems and remove the outer layer of the fennel bulbs. Halve the bulbs lengthwise and slice up into 1cm slices.
In a saute pan, melt the butter and add the leek and fennel with a pinch of salt and fry until the vegetables are coated in the butter.
Add the water, cover the pan and cook the leek and fennel for 15-20 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until vegetables are tender but not coloured. When ready, turn off the heat, open the lid and set aside to cool.
In the meantime, roll out a sheet of shortcrust pastry* and line a greased tart tin or flat casserole dish, trimming off any excess.
Whisk together the eggs and cream and season with salt and pepper.
Layer the leek and fennel over the pastry base and top with the reserved fennel leaves.
Pour over the egg mixture and bake in the oven for approx 20-25 minutes or until the tart has just set in the centre and the pastry is golden.
* Note *
I usually roll out store bought shortcrust pastry sheets as I find them quite thick. Plus this means that I don’t have to blind bake the pastry and it’ll cook perfectly with the egg filling.