It would have been perfect timing for me to post up this recipe last week. The pumpkin would have been a shoe-in for Halloween and last month’s Cheese, Please! theme was hard sheep’s cheese. But last week saw me on a remote sheep farm in the Peak District with inadequate Wi-Fi, trying
not to shout at to entertain two small boisterous children and fashion firelighters from old copies of the Farmer’s Guardian. It was a remote and beautiful place and if I ever have a mid-life crisis and decide to become a cheese-maker, I think I will move there and make a nice mountain sheep’s cheese.
But reality bites and here I am back in the Big Smoke, with only a piece of Whitmore Ewe’s Cheese as a memento (oh – and a pair of very warm fleecy slippers). I would love to claim creative rights for this recipe but I actually saw it in November’s Sainsbury’s magazine. The original recipe called for pecorino and I bravely road-tested the recipe on a foodie Italian friend. It passed muster and so here it is, this time made with Whitmore Ewe’s Cheese. Made by the Staffordshire Organic Cheese Company, it’s a hard unpasteurised ewe’s milk cheese, so makes a perfect substitute for the pecorino. If you like egg custard, you’ll like this; it has a sweet and slightly cheesy flavour and is as nice cold as warm. This is only the second time I have made pastry from scratch so be gentle with me, dear reader.
200g plain flour
1 tbsp finely grated sheep’s cheese
100g cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg yolk
750g peeled and deseeded pumpkin or squash
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
150ml double cream
A generous grating of nutmeg
1 tsp light brown soft sugar
3 tbsp grated pecorino or similar sheep’s cheese
10 sage leaves
A little butter, for frying
First make the pastry (gulp). Tip the flour, 1 tbsp of cheese and butter into a food processor and whiz to form crumbs. Add the egg yolk, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon iced water. Pulse the mixture until it comes together (you may need to add a little more water). Chill the pastry in clingfilm in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Chop the pumpkin into small pieces. I used a harlequin squash; how pretty is this for a vegetable?!
Steam the pumpkin in a steamer until tender.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a 23cm-diameter tin (3cm deep). Press the pastry down into the base and chill for a further 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C / 180˚C fan-assisted / Gas Mark 6. Whiz the steamed pumpkin in a processor until smooth then tip it into a bowl to cool.
Scrunch up a square of baking paper, open it out again and put it into the tart case so it lines the pastry. Tip in baking beans (I used dried chickpeas) and bake the tart case, on a tray, for 20 minutes.
Remove the paper and beans, and bake for a further five minutes. Leave to cool (and panic about all the holes and lumpy bits you spot). Turn down the oven to 190˚C / 170˚C fan-assisted / Gas Mark 5.
Mix the pumpkin purée with the eggs, cream, nutmeg, sugar, grated cheese and season. Fill the tart case with the mixture and bake for a further 35-40 minutes or until just set.
Fry the sage leaves in a little hot butter with a pinch of salt until just crisp.
Serve the tart barely warm, topped with the sage leaves and shavings of cheese.