Monday, 15 February 2016

Smoked mackerel and chive tart

This isn't smocked mackerel and chive tart but smoked mackerel and chive tart.  It's a subtle difference.

I like smoked mackerel in limited quantities and in this recipe the quantities are just right.

If you want to skip the pastry making and buy ready made shortcrust, I won't judge you but this method wasn't difficult, and I speak as a pastryphobe.

You'll need a 22cm tart/quiche tin preferably with removable base, although not essential.  If you only have a 25cm tin then don't fret.  The pastry quantities will still be sufficient but you might want to increase the filling ingredients about 20-25%.  I was in this situation and added a bit more mackerel, crème fraîche, horseradish but not more chives or egg.


  • 320g ready rolled shortcrust pastry or a block which you roll yourself or:
  • 250g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 140g butter (very cold and cubed)
  • 2 tbsp (roughly) iced water

  • 2 large eggs beaten
  • 180g smoked mackerel
  • 100ml milk
  • 200ml crème fraîche (can be half fat but why would you)
  • 3 tsp creamed horseradish
  • 25g fresh chives - chopped

For the pastry:

  • Add the salt to the flour and then pop in a food processor with the cubed butter
  • Whizz until you get a fine crumb
  • Gradually add water until a dough forms
  • At this point I like to chill for 30 mins but you don't have to
  • Roll out pastry between sheets of greaseproof paper and then line your greased (with butter) tart tin with a bit of pastry overhang, about a centimetre.  I usually trim the pastry with scissors to get an even overhang.  The overhang is there because pastry shrinks when cooked.  Make sure you push the pastry gently into the tin - this is best done with the back of the index finger.
  • Prick the base and sides with a fork, also prick the corner bits at the edge of the base - this area is my bête noire because it always seems to puff up when baked
  • Chill the pastry in its case for 30 mins and put a baking sheet in the oven and turn the oven on to 200°C
  • Blind bake for 15 mins by placing the tin on the baking sheet - this means the tart case with baking parchment (I find the pre-cut and fluted cake tin liners from Lakeland are perfect) and fill with baking beans, or rice or beans or whatever.  These baking beans are sold in a standard amount and I use two lots and make sure they are pushed into the corners.  The reason you bake on a baking sheet is that the pastry is quite a buttery mixture and some butter can ooze whilst baking.  A baking sheet is easier to clean than an oven.
  • Take out and carefully remove baking beans and baking parchment.
  • Bake for another 5 mins (this wasn't in the original recipe but I did it by accident and it seemed to work - if it ain't broke...)
  • Take out and brush base with beaten egg - you can try to brush the sides as well but I found that a bit faffy
  • Bake for another 5 mins
  • Take out of the oven
  • Carefully trim away the pastry overhang.  I use a knife and find this is a tedious and messy process.  Why someone doesn't just produce a tart tin that's a little deeper to accommodate this problem, I just don't know.  It would save me time and stress hormones.
  • Your base can now be filled or can wait until you're ready for the next stage.  You can freeze your case now if you want to.
For the filling:
  • Take the skin off the smoked mackerel.
  • Run your fingers along its spine to feel for bones.  They probably wouldn't do any harm but I like to remove the ones I can feel or see.
  • Tear flesh into smallish pieces (about 2/3 the size of your little finger?) and scatter in your tart case.
  • In a large jug whisk eggs, milk, crème fraîche, horseradish and chives.  You can add a healthy grind of black pepper too if you fancy it.  You're really just combining the ingredients thoroughly here not trying to whip air into the mixture.
  • Pour over the mackerel and then bake for 25-30 minutes.  I used a 25 cm tin and found I was baking it for about 40 minutes to get a golden colour.  You'll also notice that the tart puffs up when baked but sinks down when removed from the oven.  This is perfectly normal.
I wouldn't recommend eating this hot, but if warm or cold it is delicious.

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