Go easy on yourself this December, it doesn't have to be the most stressful time of the year - this easy, yet very flavorful, savory winter tart hits all the right buttons, it has a no-prep-required, crunchy and ruffeld filo crust, a layer of creamy, cheesy, herby filling with seasonal mini veggies – making this a perfect little starter for a festive dinner or, better yet, a nice little December lunch giving you time to tend to other pressing December activities.
To make a change from the usual short-crust pastry, I chose a filo crust instead, and in lieu of the traditional egg/milk/cream filling, I opted for a creamy local goat’s cheese and some crème fraîche mixed together with fresh soft herbs, pepper and salt. Then topped it all with my favorite veg this time of year. And that's about it.
Brussels sprouts are often confined to the Christmas roast, but they needn't be. Try Brussels sprouts shredded, either eaten raw in a salad or flash-fried with bacon and plenty of good butter or a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche. You can also opt to throw in some chestnuts for a particularly seasonal treat that’s a perfect accompaniment to any roast (around here we can buy very decent pre-cooked and shelled chestnuts that I like to use). Or blanch, douse in cream and bake in the oven for a delicious gratin. Every once in a while I like to mix the Brussels sprouts with leftover mashed potato, shape them into smallish patties and pan fry until golden brown. Or, of course, you could try these tiny brassicas in my December Filo Tart.
If your are lucky, you will find purple Brussels sprouts at the farmer’s market – although they do lose some of their lovely color during the cooking process, they still make for a ratherv pretty presentation. Treated with a touch of love and a bit of care, these little buds can easily become one of your winter favorites.
Just remember when cooking these, that contrary to popular opinion, Brussels sprouts do not benefit from having a cross cut into the bottom of them. Instead of helping them to cook evenly, the cross can make the sprouts waterlogged. Instead, just cut off the dry bottom, leave whole (if mini) or cut sprouts in half, and just blanch the clean sprouts briefly in boiling, salted water until cooked but still bright and with some bite to them.
Filo Tart with Mini Brussels Sprouts
- 350g mini Brussels sprouts (or use regular-sized sprouts, then halve them)
- 4 to 5 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped, plus extra to decorate OR use a a mix of rosemary and thyme
- olive oil for brushing (chose an olive cook suitable for high temperatures)
- 6 filo pastry sheets NOTE: filo pastry sheets vary in size, so you may need a few more sheets than stated in my recipe
- 250g soft goat’s cheese (OR use crème fraîche)
- 250g cottage cheese
- 2 to 3 tbsp freshly chopped ‚soft herbs‘ such as Italian parsley, chives, basil, tarragon or dill
- freshly ground black pepper and salt
- a few sprigs of garden thyme
- First off, start cooking your Brussels sprouts: if the outer leaves are a bit shaggy, take them off and cut a thin slice off the bottom. Blanch in salted, boling water and refresh in cold water as soon as they are cooked. Leave them to dry on a sheet pan. Then quickly pan-fry them with fresh garden thyme, olive oil and salt. Set aside to cool.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (356°F).
- Brush a pie dish OR baking pan (24 to 26cm/9 to 10in) with a little oil, then lay on a sheet of filo pastry, leaving some overhang at the edges. Brush with more oil, then lay another sheet over the first at a 45-degree angle. Repeat with the remaining sheets, overlapping as you go, until they are all used up.
- In your food processor, mix together the soft goat’s cheese and the cottage cheese with a little salt and pepper and process until almost smooth. Then add a bit of olive oil and the soft herbs and process some more until all the ingredients come together.
- Pour the filling into the pastry case and scatter over the cooked and cooled mini Brussels sprouts.
- Make sure that the filo edges will stay clean (no drippings of filling) and brush them lightly with some more olive oil (to make the extended crust), place the tart on a lined baking sheet and transfer to the oven to bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until just set, golden and bubbling. NOTE: if the ruffled edge of the tart tends to brown too quickly, cover with foil during the last 15 minutes or so of baking.
- Remove from the oven, then cool for 5 minutes before serving in slices with a mixed or green salad.
This filo tart recipe is the perfect midweek meal for the whole family. Happy December cooking.