I was sorting through the freezer at the weekend and unearthed a bag of diced pumpkin I had completely forgotten was there. I had stored it away back in the autumn after buying such a colossal pumpkin that it was too big to eat all at once. I was pleased I had as it had been a few months since tasting a good pumpkin and now I had some at my fingertips.
After a short recipe hunt I settled on a recipe for roasted curried pumpkin that sounded very tasty. However I wanted to turn it into something a bit more substantial and decided to combine it with spinach and turn it into a tart. I also added an egg quiche style filling to help ‘stick’ it all together. The result was delicious.
The pastry was thin and crisp while the filling was soft and warming. The earthiness of the spinach worked so well with the tender sweetness of the pumpkin. The curry and cumin spices were lingering in the background without being too obvious or overpowering and just added to the whole warming, comforting flavour that seemed to capture the essence of golden autumn days. I loved the striking colour contrast of the dark green spinach against the golden pumpkin too.
Some of the pumpkin poked up above the eggy filling meaning it got a second gentle roasting when baked, giving even more flavour and a fun rustic appearance. I served the tart warm with a spoonful of Indian spiced carrot chutney to enhance the curry notes and which I would highly recommend. If you don’t have any pumpkin I’m sure it would work equally well with butternut squash or sweet potato.
Spinach & Curried Pumpkin Tart
(Recipe adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook)
Start by making the pastry. Cut the cold butter into 2cm squares. Place the flour into a bowl, add the butter and rub the butter into the flour using the very tips of your fingers. Do this by picking the little squares of butter and some of the flour up with your fingertips, lift this just above the rim of the bowl and then rub the two gently together, letting it fall back into the bowl. Be gentle with it as overworked pastry goes tough.
When most of the butter lumps have gone you should be left with a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add a spoonful of cold water and work this into the pastry using a round bladed butter knife. Add a little more water if it still seems too dry to form a dough.
Once the crumbs are starting to cling together, use your hands to squash the mixture together to form a dough. No not knead it like bread dough.
Wrap it in clingfilm and place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
Roast the Pumpkin
While your pastry is chilling in the fridge prepare the filling. Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut the pumpkin into a fairly large dice and place into a bowl. Mix the curry powder and cumin seeds into 1 tablespoon of oil and drizzle over the top of the pumpkin. Toss together so the pumpkin gets an even coating of the spiced oil.
Transfer the pumpkin to a baking tray and roast in the oven for 25 minutes until soft and lightly brown around the edges.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.
Blind bake the Pastry
Next, remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it will line a deep 8inch/20cm tart tin.
Lay a sheet of clingfilm over the top of the pastry and cover with baking beans or dried rice to prevent the pastry from puffing up when baking.
Place the pastry into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the edges are starting to turn golden.
Remove the clingfilm and baking beans from the tart shell and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes to crisp up the base.
Then reduce the oven to 180C.
Assemble the Tart
Finely chop the onion and garlic. Fry until softened in the remaining tablespoon of oil, then set aside. Thaw the frozen spinach or blanch the fresh spinach until softened. Place into a clean tea towel and wring it out tightly to get rid of all the excess water or else your tart will be soggy.
Cut the skin off the pumpkin and crush the pieces gently in your fingers.
Arrange the onion and garlic over the base of the tart. Scatter the spinach and roasted crushed pumpkin over the top, packing it in well.
Lightly beat the eggs, milk, cream and a little salt and pepper together until combined, before pouring into the tart. (Some of the pumpkin and spinach will poke out above the egg mixture, but this is desired as it gives the veg a roasted top and flavour).
Bake for 35-45 minutes until the egg mixture is set and the pumpkin tops are golden and roasted.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and serving with salad and a spiced Indian style pickle or chutney (I used an Indian carrot chutney).
Serves 6 as a main course or 8-10 as a starter.