A Polarizing Tart...and some Squid

Apparently there's something big happening in a day or two. I've been reading the odd article about it, watched the occassional advert on TV and have even allowed myself - just a little - to get a bit carried away with it. As you may have guessed, I'm talking about Christmas.
I think that most cooks look forward to this time of year because special occasions allow for self-indulgent cooking marathons, that you can pretend are for 'the family'. Of course, if you hate cooking, you will simply eschew the kitchen in favour of the supermarket. If you're not a cook then the added stress of cooking is understandably allayed by prepacked food.
Because I love all the Christmas preparations, I am completely up-to-date. Tomorrow night I'll be making the Buche de Noel, which I have never made before. I'm planning on stuffing the yule log with chestnut puree and the Marron Glace that I made a week or so ago (just to prove that there is a use for them!).
For now, then, I have temporarily forgotten about the big day, and baked a tart and rustled up a spicy seafood snack for Paul and myself to share in front of the TV.
The tart is part of a swap that I am doing with Shaun from Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow. We are both Tamasin Day-Lewis fans and as she is a big champion of the tart, we have decided to have a Tamasin Tart Bake-off comprising of just the two of us. This isn't because we are social outcasts, rather we don't actually know any other Tamasin fans. Nigella fans are ten a penny, as are Martha and Delia fans. I'm hoping we didn't choose the same tart. That wouldn't make for the most exciting reading.
So, my tart is from the Art of the Tart and is a stunning combination featuring Spinach and Anchovies.
Now you come to understand the polarising part of the title. Like Marmite, Jessica Simpson and horror movies, you either love Anchovies or despise them. I love them as a flavour although I balk a little at eating them straight from the jar. However, if you use anchovies as an ingredient, most people would find it hard to identify just what it is that gives the dish its delicious savoury element. Combined with spinach, which has a wonderful affinity with fish anyway, the tart is satisfyingly robust. I would consider prinking the pastry with a sprinkling of Parmesan but I fear this might be a salty note too many - Anchovies are thirst inducingly saline.
As you can see, it is a psychedelic shade of green. I think it would look great served alongside a tomato salad, with some raw spinach leaves to add some extra iron.
Also, it would provide an interesting foil against turkey if you should get fed up with leftovers...

And if the anchovies weren't one divisive marine animal too many, here's a zippy squid recipe, guaranteed to sooth the cravings of the most spicy tongued gourmandizer. I hadn't planned on making squid but there was a small, lonely bag of prepared squid reduced on the fish counter, and for 69p how could I resist? Squid is something I have been meaning to prepare for some while but have never had the opportunity. Normally you can only buy squid here, frozen, tubes only. I find this to not be entirely respectful of this intelligent, gentle encephalopod and I wanted to do it justice.

HOT AND SOUR SQUID, this is a rough approximation of a Jeff Smith recipe
Ingredients (serves 2 as a snack)
About 10 Tubes of Squid, prepared, with the tentacles if possible
1 Teaspoon Harissa Paste made up with a couple of teaspoons of Olive Oil and a clove of Garlic
2 Spring Onions cut into rings
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
Half Teaspoon Cornflour mixed with a tablespoon cold water
2 Tablespoons Dry Sherry or Rice Wine (I used Rioja, which sounds horribly extravagant but that's all I had)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 Tablespoons Peanut Oil
1 Small Nub of Ginger, grated
In a wok (although I had to use a saute pan), heat the peanut oil until really hot. Add the ginger. It will fizzle and spit and brown. Add the spring onions, soy sauce and squid rings. Cook over this high heat for no more than a minute. The tentacles will curl and start to bloom like tiny flowers. The Soy will virtually evaporate.
Add the sesame oil, wine and harissa paste, making sure to keep stirring all the time. Finally, stir in the cornflour mixed with the water. The sauce will thicken and become glossy.
Serve at once. This recipe is easily doubled. You can also add some fresh chilli if you desire more heat.


Brilynn said...

Very Christmacy with the green tart and red squid!

FreyaE said...

Hi Brilynn,
Hadn't thought of it like that but from hereonwards I shall pretend that the two dishes are my unorthodox Christmas celebration!!
Have a wonderful time!

Shaun said...

Freya, love - What a great tart! I, for one, love spinach and am a new fan of anchovies (as a needed element in bagna cauda, they won me over). Though "spinach green" is shocking to the eye, it is still eye-catching, and I have no doubt that your tart was very flavourful. I'm glad we didn't decide on the same tart, though I was tempted to make a savoury one...but I had so many almonds sitting around (don't ask me how or why because I don't know). Let's do this again...soon :-)