I’ve worked with Cranks a couple of times in the past, so you’re probably familiar with them by now. If not, all you need to know is that they have a very well-regarded vegetarian restaurant in Devon, they produce yummy bread, and they have a really fab range of vegetarian sandwiches, wraps etc. Basically, they’re a vegetarian’s dream.
Unfortunately, Devon is a long way from where I live (I mean, those of you in the US or Australia would probably consider 225 miles to be just round the corner, but it’s a long way in UK terms!), so I’ve not yet made it down to the restaurant. If I’m ever in that part of the country, you can bet that Cranks will be first on my list, but for now, I have to settle for just ogling the menu online (does anyone else enjoy browsing a menu almost as much as eating the actual food?).
Cranks have recently launched their new winter menu, and one of the dishes featured is a seasonal tart. As soon as I read these words, I was inspired – it conjures up any numbers of delicious images. The sort of dish that could change day by day depending on what looks good at the market.
I decided to make a cauliflower cheese tart for my version. Cauliflower is pretty much available year-round, but it always reminds me of roast dinners, creamy soups, and other warming wintery dishes. And, of course, the ultimate cauliflower dish: cauliflower cheese.
This cauliflower cheese tart is so rich and cheesy – my idea of heaven. The cauliflower doesn’t add a huge amount of flavour in itself, but it stops the tart from feeling overly heavy, so definitely plays an important role. I made a really tall tart on this occasion, because I wanted a real show-stopper. It’s not entirely perfect, but rustically perfect…
Once you’ve added the steamed cauliflower to the tart, it’s just a case of pouring over the creamy, cheesy filling. It’s basically a simple white sauce, flavoured with two types of cheese (I used gruyere and cheddar, but you could mix it up with other cheeses if you prefer), and set with a few eggs. It’s seriously delish.
A nice big tart like this is a great option for a dinner party – the sort of thing that will evoke ‘wow’s as it’s presented. You’ll definitely want to share it around, otherwise you may find yourself going back for ‘just one more’ small slice (which actually turns into half the tart when you do it six times). Since baked potatoes also feature on the Cranks menu, I served my tart alongside some hot jackets (started in the microwave to save time, and finished off in the oven to get nice and crispy), some steamed veggies, and a drizzle of gravy. It was a really perfect supper.
Are any of you in Devon? If so, pop down to Totnes to try the new Cranks menu, and report back to let me know how it tastes!
- 1 head cauliflower
- 375 g shortcrust pastry (1 large sheet), room temperature
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp plain flour, plus more for rolling
- 400 ml milk (~ 1 2/3 cups)
- 90 g gruyere cheese or other hard cheese, grated (~ 1 cup grated)
- 90 g cheddar cheese, grated (~ 1 cup grated)
- Black pepper
- 3 eggs
- 100 ml single cream (~ 1/3 cup)
- Small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
Preheat the oven to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F).
Cut the cauliflower into florets, and steam for around 10-15 minutes, or until fairly soft.
Meanwhile, lightly grease an 8 inch springform cake tin. Dust the pastry and surface with flour, and roll it out until it measures around 12 x 12 inches. Lay it over the cake tin, and gently ease it into the corners, pressing gently. If you end up with any tears, just press the pastry back together. Trim off any extreme excess, but leave an inch or two extra around the edge to allow it to shrink a little during baking. Prick the pastry a few times with a fork, then place in the oven to blind bake for around 20 minutes, until golden brown. If the pastry has puffed up at all, just press it back down gently. Trim off any excess pastry, and reduce the heat of the oven to 170°C (Gas Mark 3 / 325°F).
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add the flour. Cook over a fairly low heat for a minute or so, stirring regularly, to cook the flour. Add the milk a little at a time, stirring until smooth each time and allowing the sauce to thicken up before adding more (it should take a few minutes in total to add all of the milk). Remove from the heat, add the cheeses (holding back a little for sprinkling on top of the tart), and season generously. Mix well, and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
Add the cream to the cheese sauce, and mix well again. In a large jug, lightly beat the eggs. Add about a tablespoon of the cheese sauce to the eggs, and mix thoroughly with a fork to temper the eggs. Repeat a couple more times, then add the remaining sauce and the fresh parsley, and mix thoroughly.
Add the steamed cauliflower to the pastry, and pour over the sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, add the halved cherry tomatoes cut-side up, and finish with some more black pepper.
Bake for around 1 hour, or until the egg mixture is set all the way through. If the cheese or pastry is browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil and return it to the oven.
Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting (it's great served cold too).
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose.