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Spinach and roast chestnut tartlet

Spinach and roast chestnut tartletThis recipe was part of an organic BrookLodge Hotel Christmas menu devised for the Irish Independent some years ago, and it makes a delicious festive starter or could be used as light main course for lunch or supper.

Quantities given for the pastry make more than is required, so wrap in cling film and keep in the fridge to use in another tart or pie.

Serves 4

Pastry

250g/9 oz flour
pinch of salt
pinch of grated nutmeg
125g/5 oz butter
1 egg

Filling

250g/9 oz whole chestnuts
750g/1½ lb spinach
25g/ 1 oz butter
75g/3 oz crème fraiche
2 eggs
sea salt
cracked black pepper

First make the pastry:

Sift the flour, salt and nutmeg into a bowl. Cut the butter into small knobs. Rub the fat into the flour, using the tips of the fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Whip the egg lightly and add to the flour.

Mix the dough lightly with a round bladed knife until it forms large lumps. Gather the dough together with the fingers until it leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Form into one piece, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.

Preheat a moderate oven, 180ºC /gas 4/350ºF.

Line 4 individual tartlet moulds: Brush the tartlet mould with butter or oil.

Roll the pastry out thinly (0.5 cm/1/4 in thick, approx).

Cut out four round shapes, larger than the mould, and lay the pastry over each mould. Ease the pastry gently into the mould with the fingers, taking care that no air pockets are left between the mould and the pastry. Trim the excess pastry with a knife and then, to bake blind, line the pastry with greaseproof paper and weigh it down with dried beans.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for 10 minutes, then remove the beans and greaseproof paper from the tartlet and bake for a further 3-4 minutes until pastry has dried out and is light brown in colour. Allow to cool.

To make the filling:

Turn the oven temperature up high, to 230ºC/gas 8 /450ºF. Make a small cut on the flat side of each chestnut. Roast them on a baking tray in the hot oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the skins crack. Turn the oven temperature back down to 180ºC /gas 4/350ºF.

When they are cool enough to handle, peel the two layers of skin from the chestnuts while they are still warm. Chop, reserving a few whole ones for garnish.

Remove the spinach stalks. Melt the butter and cook the spinach in it for 2 minutes, until it wilts. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper and divide between the tartlet cases.

Whisk the eggs and crème fraiche together, season and pour over the spinach.

Sprinkle with chopped chestnuts bake for 10 minutes in the moderate oven until lightly set.

To serve, drizzle virgin olive oil around the plates and garnish the warm tarts with a sprig of flat leaf parsley and a whole roasted chestnut.

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