I do not exaggerate when I say that this has got to be one of the best tarts I’ve made. It’s a special occasion worthy tart packed with expensive gruyere cheese, cream, mushrooms and wonderful clam liquor. Now I wouldn’t usually suggest making a tart during high summer because butter pastry can be such a fiddly thing to make when it’s sweltering outside, but I couldn’t wait like several months to post this. It’s really that good, and if you’re making it, I suggest rolling it out in an airconditioned room. Even with my below-average tart making skills, this pastry is delicious because it’s all butter. I made this tart in a rectangular shell but the recipe is easily adaptable to a round one.
When buying bivalves, soaking the clams is necessary to get the sand out. Gritty sand in your filling is no fun to eat and scrubbing your clams clean is essential before steaming them, even if your fishmonger says he/she has done the needful. Serve this golden, bubbling tart out of the oven with dressed greens on the side and some more shaved gruyere if you have it. A slice is filling enough, and warrants a long nap after.
Mushroom and Clam Tart
Yield 6-8 servings
Earthy button mushrooms and salty clam liquor imbue this creamy filling with incredible flavour, made better with gruyere cheese. Work the pastry in an airconditioned room during high summer.
Clams 2 dozen
White wine 1 cup
Butter 2 tbsp
Garlic 3 cloves, minced
Onion 1 small, finely chopped
Thyme 1 tsp, fresh
Fennel seeds or saunf 1/2 tsp
Button mushrooms 6-7
All purpose flour 2 1/2 tbsp
Cream 1/4 cup
Milk 1/4 cup
Gruyere cheese 1 cup, grated
Coriander 1 tbsp, freshly chopped
Garam masala 1/4 tsp
Lime 1/2, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
Tart shell (makes more than enough to line a long rectangular tart shell (34cm x 11cm) or makes 2 x 9-inch single crust round tarts)
Sugar 1 tbsp
Salt 3/4 tsp
Salted Butter 226g, fridge cold, cut into cubes
Ice-Cold water 120ml
First up, clean your clams. These little bivalves get quite a bit of sand in them and so you should soak your clams for an hour at least in water for cooking them. It’s important to also scrub your clams with a little brush just to get any bits of dirt out from the shell. Usually, my fishmonger is quite thorough, but I still prefer to re-scrub it at home.
While the clams soak, it’s best to start on your tart crust. I recommend working in an air-conditioned room with pastry during the high summers. In addition, use an ice pack on the surface you’ll be rolling out your pastry on. Rub the fridge cold butter into the flour and salt using your fingers till everything starts to look mealy. Start adding the cold water to the dough bit by bit till it forms a ball. Knead it together very lightly once or twice, then wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes at least. On a lightly floured cold surface, transfer the dough and roll it out with a pin to a rough rectangle. You could do this between two sheets of clingfilm too if you like, which makes it easy to transfer the pastry to the tart shell. Line the tart shell with the pastry, tucking in any excess overhang into itself to make a thick crust. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes and start on the filling.
In a wide, medium saucepan, heat the white wine on a medium high flame till simmering. Add in the clams and cook covered for 3 minutes. Check to see if they have opened, nudging them around until they do. If any remain unopened, discard these clams. Strain and reserve 1/2 cup of this wine mixture mixed with the clam’s salty juices. Separate the clams from its shells and set aside.
In a saucepan set over medium heat, add the butter. When hot, add garlic and cook for a minute or two before adding the chopped onions. Cook the onions and cook till they are golden. Next up, add the thyme, fennel seeds and chopped button mushrooms. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the mushrooms are soft for about 4-5 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly, stir in the flour and cook the flour for a minute or two, constantly stirring. Stir in the clam and wine juice first, followed by the cream and milk. Increase the heat to medium-high again, constantly stirring to thicken the sauce, for about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the mussels, garam masala and the cheese and take it off the flame. Add the chopped coriander, the lime juice, black pepper and taste for salt.
Bake the refrigerated tart shell blind with beans in the cavity at 180 degrees Celsius for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Take the beans out and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes more until the base has some colour on it too. Add the filling to the cavity of the tart shell spreading it with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon nudging it to the sides. Transfer the filling to the oven and let the tart cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is golden and bubbling. Take it out of the oven and serve hot.