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Pickled Walnut Tart

A woman, a steak and a walnut tree, the more you beat 'em, the better they be.' This is a Victorian tart recipe, reflecting a long history of reverence for the walnut. Pickled walnuts start life as green whole nuts, picked in high summer and pickled by first putting them in brine. They are then put in jars with vinegar, spices, peppers and garlic. Controversy surrounded the matter of pricking the walnuts with needles to ensure full absorption of the flavours, but most people who like them today are completely addicted to all pickled walnuts. They go very well in a tart.
This tart can also be baked in a shallow 34 x 11 cm (13 1/2 x 4 1/4 in) rectangular tart tin. If using a rectangular tin, there will be enough pastry and filling left over to make six 8 cm (3 1/4 in) tartlets. These tartlets make excellent starters.

ingredients

serves 4 - 6
175 g (6 oz) plain shortcrust pastry
400 g (14 oz) jar pickled walnuts
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
300 ml (1/2 pint) double cream
85 g (3 oz) Gloucester or Leicester cheese, crumbled
85 g (3 oz) medium Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
finely chopped chives or parsley, to garnish

method

1. Line the tart tin(s) with the pastry (see above) and pre-bake or bake blind. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.

2. Empty the jar of pickled walnuts into a colander and drain off all the liquid. Chop the walnuts into small pieces (alternatively, you might prefer to give them a quick spin in the food processor). Set aside.

3. Fry the onions gently in the olive oil in a covered, heavy-bottomed frying pan over a low heat, until they are soft, stirring occasionally.

4. Place the eggs, cream, chopped walnuts, cheeses, softened onions and mustard in a large bowl and give the mixture a good stir. Season well with salt and pepper. At this stage the mixture will look rather unattractive. Spoon the mixture into the pre-baked pastry case. Bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the mixture is dark and bubbling. If you have used a slim rectangular tin and have the excess pastry and filling for the tartlets, you will only have to bake them for about 15-20 minutes.

5. Serve warm or cold, sprinkled with chives or parsley.

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