Horray! It looks as though we’re through the ‘hungry gap’ where the last of the winter vegetables are running low and the first of the spring veggies are not quite ready. If you subscribe to a veggie box or community agriculture scheme the hungry gap can play havoc with your menu plan: unexpected frosts can spoil crops, supplies can run out early and you end up with the occasional unexpected substitution. Last week was one such occasion when I had made planned to make pumpkin falafels and ended up with a cauliflower. Granted, it was a lovely cauli but I struggled to come up with an interesting idea for dinner that went beyond the standard cheese pairing.
As this recipe shows, I didn’t venture very far from the cheese option but I think I ended up with something a little more elegant, a touch lighter and a whole lot more exciting. It combines the comforting, homely combination of cauliflower, cheese and bacon with a fragrant, nutty crust (a riff on this one) that is incredibly simple to make and is the perfect complement to the cheesy filling. The smell of the crust as it bakes blind is nothing short of heavenly thanks to a generous helping of dukkah – an Egyptian spice blend made with hazelnuts, seeds, cumin, fennel and black pepper amongst other things. I used my homemade version which I’ve tweaked to suit my tastes but you can also buy it ready-made.
Cauliflower, bacon and cheese tart with dukkah crust
Crust adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini.com
Filling adapted from BBC Good Food.com
For the dukkah crust:
- 100g plain flour
- 150g plain wholemeal flour
- ½tsp sea salt
- 3–4tbsp dukkah*
- 60ml olive oil
- 120ml cold water
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, stir in the oil then add the water a little at a time until a dough forms.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3mm thick. Line a 23cm tart tin and chill for 30 mins.
For the tart:
- 100g bacon lardons
- 1 small cauliflower (about 350g), cut into small florets
- 2tbsp plain flour
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 25g butter
- 250ml milk
- 100g cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 spring onions
- salt and pepper, chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
Once the pastry has chilled heat the oven to 200°C. Line the pastry with grease-proof paper and baking beans and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the beans and paper, scatter the bacon over the base of the tart. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.
Simmer the cauliflower for 5–7 minutes until tender, drain and set aside.
Mix the flour and mustard powder. Melt the butter in a pan then stir in the flour. Add the milk a little at a time stirring well to form a smooth sauce. Cook for a few minutes until it thickens enough to cover the back of a spoon.
Stir in 75g of the cheese and the spring onions and allow to cool a little.
Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste (overseason the sauce a tad as the cauliflower will be added to it).
Stir in the eggs followed by the cooked cauliflower. Pour into the pastry case and top with the remaining cheese.
Bake (at 200°C) for 20 minutes until golden. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving or, to serve cold, cool completely and chill.
This is my recipe for dukkah, other good recipes are available from:
- 150g hazelnuts, skin on
- 100g sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 tsp black pepper corns
- 3 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp sea salt
Toast the hazel nuts in a hot pan for a few minutes until they smell toasty. Place on a tea towel and rub off the skins. Place in a food processor bowl.
Toast the sunflower and sesame seeds and add to the nuts.
Toast the pepper, cumin, coriander and fennel until fragrant. Place in a spice grinder of clean coffee grinder and buzz until ground but with a few larger bits.
Add the spices and salt to the seeds and nuts and pulse until the nuts are ground but still a little nubbly. Be careful not to grind it into a paste!
Allow to cool and store in an air-tight container.