Springtime spiral vegetable tart

This showstopper of a tart is the perfect main player for a vegetarian Sunday lunch. The colourful spiral slithers of courgette, aubergine and carrot arranged on a butternut squash puree and shortcrust pastry base, make for an impressive dinner party centrepiece.

As we start to see more frequent bursts of sunshine and there’s a chance of leaving work while it’s still light, the hopeful season of spring is surely on the horizon. This tart epitomises the season of new beginnings, delightful daffodils and blooming blossom with its colourful flower-like shape.

But what does it taste like? Well, the pastry is light and crisp, the butternut squash and sage puree adds a sweet and earthy base and the vegetable spirals bring a trio of textures with a hint of chilli.

One for the weekend

Be warned, this tart does take some time to prepare. This is definitely a dish to make on the weekend, or when you have a couple of hours spare to get creative in the kitchen. Also, the vegetable spirals can be achieved with a vegetable peeler, but speaking from experience, I would advise investing in a mandoline.

This recipe is adapted from Homemade. Their version is vegan, but I opted for traditional cooking spread over soya spread as I was after a creamier pastry. I found that I had loads of leftover vegetables, so I’ve suggested a smaller quantity below.

I served this with a feta and lentil salad to satisfy my cheese needs, but you could easily add some goats’ cheese, feta or mozzarella to the tart itself if you fancy.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g cooking spread, softened
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 300g butternut squash
  • 4 sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 courgettes
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 aubergines
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves 4

Method

  1. Half-fill a mug with cold water and put it in the freezer.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl with a pinch of salt. Cut the cooking spread into cubes and add to the bowl. Rub the spread in with your fingertips, until it reaches a breadcrumb consistency. Remove the water from the freezer and add 3-4 tbsp, until the dough is moist enough to bring together with your hands. Form it into a ball, adding a bit more water if needed, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Put the oven on to gas mark 6, and generously grease a large tart dish.
  4. Meanwhile, make the butternut puree. Finely dice the onion and then chop the butternut squash into small cubes.
  5. Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and pour in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Drop in the garlic, cook for a further minute, and then add the butternut squash and sage. Add 2-3 tbsp of cold water and bring to the boil. Stir, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the squash cubes have softened.
  6. While that’s cooking, prep the vegetable spirals. Chop the ends off the veggies and use a peeler or a mandoline to slice them into thin ribbons. Tip: if you’re using a peeler, I’d advise slicing the aubergine thinly with a knife instead, as the flesh is difficult to slice with a peeler. Pop your spirals into a large bowl as you go, and then sprinkle over the chilli flakes and pour in the agave syrup so it’s evenly dispersed. Mix the syrup and chilli in with the vegetables using a metal spoon.
  7. When the squash is cooked, take it off the heat and mash it to a smooth paste.
  8. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll the dough out till it’s roughly 5mm thick. Carefully lift it up and lay it in the tart dish, trimming the edges with a knife. Cover with foil and pour in baking beans or rice to weigh the foil down. Pop in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out and remove the beans/rice and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven heat to gas mark 4.
  9. Next, add the filling. Remove the foil from the tart and spread the butternut puree over the bottom with a metal spoon. Now comes the artistic bit. Take a slice of carrot, aubergine and courgette and curl them together into a tight spiral. Place the spiral in the middle of the tart and then gradually grow the spiral by adding alternating vegetable ribbons until you reach the outside of the dish. Drizzle over the remaining tbsp of olive oil and place in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the vegetable ribbons have softened.
  10. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then serve with a salad.
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