April Recipe: Blue Cheese and Spinach Tart with Caramelised Onions

This is a delicious tart. If you are worried about making your own pastry by all means buy shortcrust pastry. Most bags of spinach are pre-washed but if yours is not, do make sure that you dry it really well before chopping (wrap in a teatowel or use kitchen paper). Tarts of any description cook better in a metal tin rather than china if you have both to hand. Do let it cool a little before serving as it will be much easier to slice.

Serves 4 – 6

  • 3 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 90g. / 3ozs. butter
  • 1 ½ tsps. Salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Black pepper
  • 100g. / 3ozs. spinach leaves
  • 175g. / 6ozs. blue cheese (Shropshire Blue))
  • 1 tub mascarpone or full fat cream cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 24cm. / 9 ½ inch shortcrust pastry case baked blind
    Shortcrust Pastry:
  • 175g. / 6ozs. plain flour, sifted
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 90g. / 3ozs. very cold butter, cubed
  • 1 egg yolk plus 1 tbsp. cold water
  • baking beans for blind baking
  1. Make the pastry. Put the flour and salt in a food processor and aerate with a couple of quick on/off pulses. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the yolk and water (if necessary) and process until the pastry just draws together. Turn on to a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly. Roll out to line the tart tin and put in the fridge for half an hour. Bake blind until a good colour.
  2. Make the caramelised onions. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat, stir in the onions, sprinkle with the salt and sugar and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until meltingly soft and deep golden, about 30 minutes. Season to taste.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the spinach by stripping the leaves of their stalks, then rolling up the leaves and slicing them into thin strips. Mix together the blue cheese, mascarpone and egg till fairly smooth (this can be done in a food processor).
  4. Spread the caramelised onions in an even layer over the pastry case, then press the spinach gently on top, and pour over the mascarpone mixture. Try to spread the mixture evenly over the tart so that the spinach is well covered. Bake until puffed and golden at 190C / Gas Mark 5. Serve warm cut into slices with new potatoes and a salad.

Helen Browning, Soil Association Chief Executive and author of “Pig”, in Ledbury on 15th April

On Monday April 15th at 7.30, Burgage Hall, you can hear Helen Browning and her partner Tim Finney, previously editor of BBC Radio 4’s Farming and Environment programme, talking about their book “Pig”.

It’s an extraordinary account of 6 months “up close and personal” with a group of sows and their piglets. It’s delightful to get an inside view of these mischievous, competitive, intelligent characters. As you delve into the story, you discover that Eastbrook Farm has not only pigs, but arable land and a dairy herd. Farming organically is formidable task, not for the feint-hearted. The hard graft involved in good husbandry is relentless, and keeping up with ever changing situation in weather (the Beast from the East last March was a particular challenge), politics, and farm economics is an ongoing struggle. Hats off to Helen, Tim and their team in their dedication to sustaining and diversifying this business, against the odds at times.

The book is not just about Pigs. This is only a part of Helen’s life. She is off to London and elsewhere in her official Soil Association role. You read about so many controversial ecological issues as Helen heads off to Farming Conferences, Student Union debates (To Meat or Not to Meat), meeting Defra officials and government Ministers. She even meets Michael Gove, the Environment Minister, down on the farm! This woman has influence in high places, earned through a lifetime of commitment to the quality of our Soil and sustainability of farming practices. Soil, and the worms in it, is vital in storing carbon. Yet much of our soil is degraded and devoid of worms!

Even if you have not read the book, do go along to what will be a fascinating and thought provoking talk. You will find that Helen demonstrates why the welfare of our farm animals – and the way we manage our countryside – is central in current discussions around food, climate change and the environment.

Tickets £5 from Ledbury Library in the Master’s House, St Katherine’s.

Note the opening times for tickets are:

Monday: 9.30am to 4.30pm
Tuesday: 9.30am to 6.00pm
Wednesday: Closed
Thursday: 9.30am to 4.30pm
Friday: 9.30am to 4.30pm
Saturday: 9.30am to 12.30pm
Sunday: Closed

The future for Farming? Talking about Pigs

Helen Browning, author of “Pig – Tales from an organic farm” and Chief Executive Officer of the Soil Association, is an organic livestock and arable farmer.

We are pleased to confirm that Helen with her co-author Tim Finney is coming to Ledbury on Monday 15th April to give a thought-provoking talk at the invitation of Ledbury Library Development Group and Ledbury Food Group. Continue reading “The future for Farming? Talking about Pigs”

February Recipe: Ginger Rhubarb Sponge

This is a very tasty pudding. Do not forget to take the butter out of the fridge so that it is nice and soft when you make the sponge. I always make my Victoria sponges with margarine rather than butter as I think it gives a lighter texture when made, but the choice is yours obviously.

The rhubarb is roasted first as it holds together better than when it is cooked in a saucepan. Clearly you can serve this with a variety of things – custard, yogurt, crème fraiche or ice cream, apart from the suggestions in the recipe.

Continue reading “February Recipe: Ginger Rhubarb Sponge”

7th Ledbury Big Breakfast beats the weather – thanks

Thanks to everyone who took part in this special festival of local food last weekend, and especially this year those who came out on a freezing Friday to enjoy a heart-warming breakfast. Your support for the event is very much appreciated by our local food producers, retailers and caterers.

Anne Crane prepares Middle Eastern Breakfasts at the Organic Cafe DSC03504
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Continue reading “7th Ledbury Big Breakfast beats the weather – thanks”