I’ve been an advocate of shortcrust vegetable pies for years. I started making them when I didn’t even have a tart pan but was using a springform pan, instead. It works, and it can look pretty, too. Then I started going smaller and made them finger-food-sized baked in the muffin tin. Also something to be proud of. Until I finally got myself a proper tart pan and started producing the real deal. My favourite? Definitely the mushroom tart.
The latest addition to my collection of pans was a set of mini tart pans. I don’t know why it took me so long to get myself those, but I finally did. Specifically, when I received a coupon from Clas Ohlson, and had no need for any larger equipment, so I got myself something small just to not lose the chance to get something for free (yay coupons!). And this is how I took home my set of 6 mini tart pans. They proved excellent for sweet custard tarts, so why not use them to make savoury pies as well? Something that fits right between the finger food baked in the muffin tin and a regular-sized vegetable tart. And the lovely tart pans I bought deliver wonderful mini tart shells.
Mini shortcrust shells:
- 175 g flour
- 110 g margarine (room temperature)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup water
Combine all ingredients except for the water in a large container and mix at high speed with a mixer (preferably fitted with the dough hook attachments). When the mixture starts to look like coarse crumbs, incorporate the water, little by little, until the dough gathers into a single ball. Depending on the type of margarine, one may not need to use all the water.
Dust a working surface with flour and roll out the dough to a couple millimiters thick. Cut out circles and place them in each tart form. Either prick the bottom of each tart with a fork, or cover with parchment paper and dried beans. We are going to pre-bake the shells alone first, and we need to make sure they won’t swell or there will be no room left for the filling.
Preheat the oven to 200°C and when it reaches the temperature place the shortcrusts in. Bake them for 10 minutes and then take them out to add the filling. Now is the time to prepare the filling, then.
Mushroom and parmigiano filling:
- 250 g mushrooms
- 80 g Parmigiano Reggiano (grated)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp ghee
- 1/3 tsp garlic powder
- 1/3 tsp dried herbs of choice (I used winter savory)
- 1/2 tsp dried porcini powder
- 1/3 tsp salt
Wash the mushrooms and select 2-3 of the same size. Cut those in half and cut out a thin slice from both halves. The centre of the mushroom is the part that looks prettier and those centre slices will be used later for decoration. Set aside. Finely chop the rest of the mushrooms. Warm up the ghee in a pan, and when it has dissoved add the mushrooms and sauté them for a few minutes on medium heat. Butter works equally fine, but I have started using ghee recently and I really like its peculiar flavour, so I’d suggest to try this recipe with ghee. Sprinkle the garlic powder, dried herbs and dried porcini over the mushrooms and give it a stir. Now, as for herb of choice I went with winter savory, which I always have from home. Thyme can be a great option, too. The use of powdered dried porcini can seem like a way to cheat. It’s not. Making these tarts with porcini would definitely be yummier, but I have no access to fresh porcini, whereas cultivated mushrooms are easier to find. They taste way less, and this is why I like to enhance the mushroom flavour with dried porcini. I’m not fooling anyone, I swear. I’m using porcini as a condiment, basically – just not as the main ingredient. Sauté the mushrooms a couple of minutes more, and lastly add the salt. The salt will make the mushrooms release some water, so keep stirring them until the water evaporates.
When the mushrooms are cooked, pour them into a clean bowl, crack the egg, add the grated parmesan and mix thoroughly. At this point the shells should have completed their first 10 minutes in the oven, so it is possible to go on and fill them. Decorate every tart with a raw mushroom slice, then return to the oven for an extra 15-20 minutes.
Given their size, these tarts can work equally great as starters as well as main course, with a side dish of vegetables. That is actually how we ate them one night for dinner. The tarts were our main dish, and I had made sautéed spinach on the side. A perfect combination of healthy and tasty. Most importantly, everything was made from scratch.