6 tbsp light olive oil
2 cloves garlic, lightly squashed with the back of a knife
zest of ½ lemon, peeled off in strips
4 sprigs of thyme
juice of ½ lemon
250g Jerusalem artichokes
200g filo pastry, thawed if frozen
60g soft goat’s cheese
sea salt and black pepper
Filo tarts are deceptively simple to make and so delicious. Once you’ve got the technique right, you can put whatever you like on top – this combination is a particular favourite of mine, though, especially when served with a salad of bitter leaves and orange segments. The thyme-infused oil keeps well for at least a month, strained into a clean and dry jar or bottle and stored in a cool, dark place, so you might want to make double the amount. You’ll soon find countless uses for it: try it in salad dressings, or drizzled over roast veg or a nice piece of fish or meat.
Start by making the infused oil. Put 4½ tbsp olive oil in a small heavy based saucepan over the lowest possible heat and add the garlic, lemon zest and two of the thyme sprigs. Let it warm gently and infuse for about 10 minutes.
Don’t let the oil overheat or the flavourings will burn – if it starts to bubble or smoke, quickly take it off the heat. Once the oil has infused, cover the pan tightly with cling film (this will intensify the flavour of the oil as it cools) and set aside until needed.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6 and put a baking sheet in to heat at the same time. While the oven is heating up, spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and put in to toast for a couple of minutes. Their high fat content means they burn easily, so keep an eye on them. As soon as they turn light golden and their skins come away easily, remove from the oven. While they are still warm, wrap in a clean tea towel or some kitchen paper and give them a rub – this will encourage the skins to come off. Lift out the now mostly skinless nuts and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, wash, trim and thinly slice the leeks. Heat the remaining 1½ tbsp oil in a saucepan with a lid and add the leeks, together with the leaves stripped from the remaining two thyme sprigs. Put the lid on and leave the leeks to cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until meltingly soft – turn the heat down if they start to brown. Squeeze in the lemon juice (reserving the empty lemon half), then turn up the heat to evaporate any excess liquid. When the leeks are pretty dry, season them with salt and pepper, then take off the heat and set aside.
While the leeks are cooking, scrub the artichokes and slice them into rounds as finely as you can, dropping them straight into a bowl of water with the lemon husk or some vinegar added to stop them from discolouring.
Strain the thyme-infused oil, which will have a wonderful scent, and chop the cooled hazelnuts quite finely.
To assemble the tart, brush a large baking tray, about 40cm x 30cm, with infused oil. Place a layer of filo pastry on the baking tray: the tart should be around 25cm square – you may need two sheets of filo, placed side by side with some overlap, to achieve this. Brush this first layer with oil and scatter with a fifth of the hazelnuts. Put the next layer of filo on top, pressing down well, then repeat the oil brushing and hazelnut scattering. Add two more layers of pastry, oil and nuts, finishing with a final layer of pastry.
Now for the toppings. Cover the pastry base with an even layer of soft leeks, then carefully arrange the artichokes on top in slightly overlapping rows. Brush with a little infused oil, if there is any left; if not, a drizzle of olive oil will do. Season with salt and pepper and crumble over the goat’s cheese, then put the baking tray straight onto the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry base is crisp and brown and the goat’s cheese has melted and is flecked with golden spots. Cut the tart into four and dive in.
Extracted from The Sunday Night Book by Rosie Sykes (Quadrille, approx €15). Photography © Patricia Niven.