A few weeks ago I made a leek tart to take to Jo’s place for late afternoon tea/early dinner. Jo and I go way back – back to primary school, when we found ourselves thrown together because we both loved maths, spelling and English. We remained friends all through primary and high school, even during the year long separation when I was 15 and was studying in Italy. We wrote letters to each other weekly (before the days of emails). Jo was at the airport waiting for me at the crack of dawn with my family (papà, mamma, my sister and brand new baby niece Claire) upon my return to Australia. Jo was like one of the family. She would often come over for lunch and learnt to play italian card games like Machiavelli – my family would chuckle when she would pass her turn and say “passo” with an Australian accent.
Jo and her husband now live around the corner from where my parents built their first Australian home. She has two very creative children, and a house full of board games. I love going back to that part of Melbourne. I love pointing out all the landmarks to my husband – the house that my father built, the house my aunt and uncle lived in and the creek I used to walk along as a child.
The tart I baked to take over to Jo’s is based on a recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion. I used my own pastry recipe rather than Stephanie’s (which had more butter than I wanted to use) but you can easily substitute store bought pastry to save time. I also added some feta cheese to the filling and scattered on some fresh thyme. It had cooled by the time we got there so we heated it up in the oven at Jo’s place, though it is just as nice eaten cold.
All six of us enjoyed this lovely simple savoury crostata for dinner, accompanied by Jo’s fresh bread rolls and a couple salads. Later Jo and I reminisced about school days over board games and coffee. In spite of the years that our lives took us in different directions and we didn’t keep in touch, when we did reconnect, we took up from where we had left off. I know she will laugh when she sees the old photos I have included in this post – what wonderful memories (and hairstyles!).
Crostata di porri (leek tart)
125g (4 and 1/2 oz) butter, softened
240g (8 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 large leeks, well washed and finely sliced
50g (just under 2 oz) butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper taste
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) degrees.
To make the pastry, place the butter, flour and salt in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. When the mixture resembles fine crumbs, drop in the egg and mix until it just comes together. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Roll out the pastry to the size of your tart tin (mine has a diameter of 23cm or 9 inches). Place the pastry in the tin and prick the base with a fork. Blind bake by placing some baking paper over the pastry and weighing it down with some pastry weights (or dried beans, rice etc) for 12 minutes then remove the baking paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Whilst the pastry base is cooking, heat the butter at medium heat in a large pan. Add the sliced leeks and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft. Set aside to cool.
Lightly whisk the eggs and the cream. Stir in the leeks and the feta. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour into the prepared cooled tart shell. Dot with some extra butter if you like. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180C (350F) until filling is set and slightly golden.
The photo below is (of course) from the 1980s, with Jo and I at a dinner with my extended family. We were on the brink of adulthood (and, as a good friend recently put it, I was channeling Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran!). The one below that is from a recent high school reunion – we are in the old chemistry lab with Michael, our partner in crime in the lab in years 11 and 12. We would always sit in the back rows, giggling in our white lab coats as we poured the contents of a test tube into a flask, hoping it wouldn’t bubble over!