This week is all about big, bold and brave flavours in my house. In the crostata, sweet leeks sit alongside punchy taleggio on a buttery walnut pastry with pops of lemon zest, parsley and winter herbs. This tart has enough going on that you could just serve it with a simple green salad. But I think you should double down on big flavours and serve it with these bitter, peppery spring greens dressed with honey, lemon and seeds. There’s a little bit of every flavour – sweet, bitter, sharp, piquant, verdant – going on here.
Leek and taleggio crostata (pictured above)
This pastry is really short and crumbly, thanks to the walnuts. I love it this way, but it’s slightly harder to handle than traditional pastry, so don’t worry if it cracks a little: you can always patch it up, and a freeform crostata is best when it’s craggy and homemade, anyway. It’s the kind of thing I make a few hours before people come over and serve just-warm so the flavours can sing.
Prep 30 min
Chill 30 min
Cook 50 min
For the filling
6 leeks (about 900g untrimmed), outer leaves discarded or saved for stock, washed and finely shredded
1 bunch thyme, roughly chopped
A few sage leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
3 large eggs
20g parmesan (I use a vegetarian one)
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
150g taleggio, rind removed
For the pastry
200g white spelt flour
1 tsp flaky salt
100g very cold butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp ice-cold water
First, make the pastry. Put the walnuts into a food processor and blitz until you have fine, uniform crumbs, but keep an eye on it – if you go too far, they will start to clump together as a nut butter. Add the flour and salt, and pulse a few times to mix everything evenly.
Add the butter and pulse a few times until you have a rough-looking dough. With the motor running, add a tablespoon of the icy water and pulse again for four turns of the blade. Take the lid off and pinch the dough with your fingers. Add a little more water if it feels dry and keep blitzing until the dough forms a ball; you want a buttery pastry and that doesn’t feel crumbly. Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Warm a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, and add the leeks, thyme, sage and a pinch of salt. Fry for seven minutes, until the leeks are soft and sweet.Add the garlic, chilli and fennel seeds, fry for two minutes to toast the spices, stir in the vinegar and cook for two minutes more. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Whisk the eggs with a fork, then grate in the parmesan. Add the parsley and lemon zest, season, then break in three quarters of the taleggio.
Take the walnut pastry out of the fridge and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Drizzle some olive oil into the centre of the paper. If your baking tray is quite flat, you should be able to roll out the pastry to a 30cm disc about 1cm deep. If you have a standard deep roasting tray, flip it over and put the paper on the underside instead.
Stir the leeks into the egg mixture and, working quickly now, spoon into the centre of the pastry, leaving about 5cm around the edge. Gently fold the pastry border back over the vegetables, pleating a little as you go. It will be crumbly and more difficult to handle than other doughs, and may break at its edges, but it will be worth it for the flaky short pastry at the end. Dot the rest of the taleggio on top.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the edges are deep golden and the filling bubbling. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then slide on to a wire rack to cool and let the pastry crisp up.
Greens with sesame and honey
To turn this into a dinner, you could stir a couple of handfuls of a cooked grain through the greens and top it all with some crumbled feta.
Prep 10 min
Cook 10 min
2 heads spring greens (about 400g)
2 handfuls peppery greens, such as watercress or rocket (about 60g)
2 handfuls bitter greens, such as turnip tops, dandelion, endive, radicchio – about 100g)
Juice of ½ lemon
4 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
2 tsp runny honey
Put a large pan on a medium heat, and add two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the greens, a large handful at a time, letting them wilt and, as they do, make more space for the remaining greens. Season with salt and cook for four to five minutes, until all the greens are wilted and soft.
Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the sesame seeds. Cook for another minute to allow the lemon to evaporate. Serve on a big platter with the honey drizzled on top.