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Some dregs of Christmas last a long, long time, but who wants a taste of the festive season while Spring’s in full swing? With all the sunshine bouncing about, it’s time for a tart.  Stilton: sufficiently patriotic for a royal wedding;  walnuts: perfect nibbling for a long, long weekend.  So  here’s my Stilton and celery tart in walnut pastry, made of yuletide leftovers dredged from the depths of the freezer, with a savoury spring in its step.  Talk about resurrection….

Walnut pastry

100 g walnuts
200 g plain flour
100 g cold unsalted butter, diced
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1-2 tbsp cold water if needed to bind

Grind the walnuts finely on the pulse setting of your food processor; add the flour with a pinch of salt and pulse to combine.  Add the butter, pulse again until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs, then add the egg incrementally through the funnel, pulsing gently all the while.  As soon as the mixture looks like it’s starting to come together, stop!  If it doesn’t, add a tablespoon of cold water, then check again: it will.

Turn out the mix onto a floured surface and roll out gently or press it together with your fingers, then use it to line a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin to about the thickness of a pound coin.  Cut away the excess but don’t trim the edges yet, place it on an oven tray (you don’t want the bottom falling out) then cover with a plastic bag (or cling film if you must) and refrigerate 30 minutes or so.  This will let the pastry “rest” as the flour absorbs the fat and moisture.  I think we all know by now that it will shrink dismally in the oven if you omit this step.

Bake blind at 190C/Gas 5 for 15-20 minutes until the edges are starting to colour, remove baking beans* and prick bottom all over with a fork then return to the oven for a further 5 – 10 minutes until that looks nicely cooked through. Remove from the oven and, once it has cooled enough just enough to handle, trim the pastry edge level with the top of the tin.  Reduce oven temperature to 180C /Gas 4.

Stilton & celery filling

25 g butter, unsalted as ever
1 leek, shredded
3-4 sticks celery with leaves, finely chopped
250 ml double cream or as I did, a mixture of DC and fromage frais
4 eggs, beaten
200 g-odd Stilton (frozen leftover Texford & Tebbutt is terrific – thaw before using!)

Melt the butter in a sauté pan and fry the leeks and celery with a good grinding of black pepper – and a whisper of freshly grated nutmeg if you like such things – gently until softened, but still with a bit of texture.  Cool slightly then sprinkle across the base of the tart case.  Crumble the Stilton evenly over the vegetables.  Stir the dairy liquid into the egg yolks to amalgamate, then pour over the Stilton and vegetables.

Gently transfer the tart into the oven – middle shelf – to bake 30 minutes approximately; the second the centre stops wobbling take it out to cool.  Serve a green salad with a sharp dressing on the side.

Incidentally, liquid legacies from last December, Sainsbury’s TTD Dry Amontillado and Oloroso sherries,  made an auspiciously deliciously happy marriage with these punchy flavours.

*my baking beans have gone awol so I substituted with glass nuggets (the kind used in floristry), which seemed to work just as well.

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