These toothsome tartlets lend themselves to all sorts of occasions. Use sorrel if you can get it (ask a gardening friend), as the slight lemony flavor cuts beautifully through the richness of the butter crust and creamy filling — but spinach also works well. Serve a tartlet or two with a sharp green salad for a satisfying lunch, make a bigger whole tart for a family supper, or fashion smaller tartlets as tiny cocktail bites for a New Year drinks party.
Makes: 8 small (3 1/2-inch) tartlets or one large (11-inch) tart | Active time: 30 minutes (start to finish: 2 hours including chilling and baking)
For the butter crust (or use a pre-made ready-rolled pie crust or pre-made tartlet shells)
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
3–5 tablespoons ice-cold water
Butter for greasing the pans
For the filling
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh sorrel leaves, roughly chopped (or substitute spinach)
1 cup baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
4 ounces fresh white crab meat (canned is OK)
1 cup half and half
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup finely grated gruyere, comté, or cheddar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (or substitute regular paprika)
Put the flour and salt into a bowl and stir together with your fingers. Add the diced butter and rub it into the flour until you get a breadcrumb-like mix. Leave a few larger lumps of butter, as these make for a flaky crust. Sprinkle the ice-cold water over the flour mix, tablespoon by tablespoon, stirring with a fork until the dough starts to come together. Turn the mix onto a floured surface, press everything together with your hands to create a smooth dough, press into a flat disc, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for one hour.
Grease your tart pans with a little butter. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F and roll out the chilled dough to about a quarter-inch thick. Don’t make the crust too thin, or it will shrink too much during cooking. If you are using mini tartlet pans, use a bowl or plate and a knife to measure and cut out dough circles that are slightly wider than the pans.
Press the circles of pastry into the pans, making sure you get into all the corners.
Prick the bottom of the tart shells with a fork and bake them blind in the oven for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
For the filling, heat the butter and oil together in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, sorrel, and spinach and cook until the garlic is fragrant and the green leaves have wilted, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a jug, whisk the half and half, egg yolks, and chopped chives together with a fork and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
Spoon the sorrel and spinach mixture into the bottom of the tarts, dividing it equally among them. Top each with the crab meat.
Pour the egg mixture into the tarts until each one is just filled.
Sprinkle each tart with grated cheese and a pinch of paprika.
Bake 12–15 minutes at 375°F, until puffy, set, and golden brown, but still with a slight wobble. Stand for 10 minutes before serving.