This luxurious, pretty tart would make a perfect vegetarian entrée or appetizer served with a simple, leafy green salad – perhaps tossed in a toasted walnut oil dressing.
The richness of the Stilton is perfectly complemented by the tart, fresh cranberries, toasted walnuts and sweet caramelized onion; this is a tart for special occasions that’s best served warm or at room temperature.
I suppose you could take a shortcut by buying a ready-made pastry shell but that would be a pity because the crust recipe here is wonderful and provided you have a food processor, is really simple to make; one short extra step, resulting in a tender crust that will have your guests begging for seconds.
You can make the pastry ahead of time as it needs an hour in the fridge before rolling it out and once you’ve lined the tart tin with it, it will need another 30 mins in the freezer before baking it blind. Use a clean wine bottle if you don’t have a rolling pin and you’ll need a 9 inch (23cm) loose-based tart pan.
All of this can be done the day before and you can even prepare the cranberry and caramelized onion filling ahead of time (assemble the tart just before putting it in the oven).
If you aren’t making your own pastry, skip the first part below.
CRANBERRY, STILTON & WALNUT TART
Ingredients for the pastry crust:
1 cup (240ml measure) of flour
2/3 cup (160ml measure) of walnut pieces
1/2 tablespoon of sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of Colman’s dry mustard powder (optional)
3 oz (85g) of chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2-3 tablespoons of very cold water
Put everything but the water into a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water one tablespoon at a time and pulse until big clumps form. Scoop the dough out of the processor, gently form it into a ball and wrap it in plastic. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Roll the pastry out onto a floured board, drape the pastry over the rolling pin and lower it into the tart pan. Don’t worry if it breaks or falls apart – just gently push the dough into place with your fingers, making sure you have an even thickness throughout. Prick the base all over with a fork then stick the raw crust in the freezer for 30 mins.
Heat the oven to 375F (190C). Bake the pie crust for 15-20 minutes or until it’s golden. Remove from the oven and set it aside while you prepare the filling, below.
Ingredients for the filling:
1 large onion, finely sliced or chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
A pinch of salt
2-3 stalks of fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoon of sugar
1 cup (240ml measure) of fresh or frozen cranberries
4 1/2 oz (130g) of walnut pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 fl oz (230ml) of crème fraîche or heavy cream
3 oz (85g) of blue Stilton, crumbled
Heat the oil and butter over a medium heat and add the onions. Stir to coat, and turn the heat to low. Add the sugar, a pinch of salt and fresh thyme. Stir frequently until the onions are soft, golden and caramelized. This can take up to 40 minutes. Once they’ve started to turn golden, you can add a splash of water and put a lid on the pan until the onions are almost of a melting consistency. You don’t want any liquid left.
Toast the walnut pieces while the onions are caramelizing; spread them on a baking tray and bake for 8-9 minutes in a 350F (180C) oven until golden and fragrant.
Fold the walnuts into the cranberry/onion mixture and set it aside until you’re ready to assemble the tart.
Whisk the eggs and crème fraîche/heavy cream together and pour this evenly over the tart filling.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden. Allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving; better still, allow it to cool for 30-40 minutes.