As you may know, I was born in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France, so Comté (or Gruyere de Comté, to be precise) is my local cheese. It’s made from unpasteurised cow’s milk and around 64,000 tonnes of it are produced each year! This recipe is my homage to this fabulous fromage. It is a very simple tart – no need to even pre-bake the pastry. But do please make sure you buy the right Comté cheese; if it’s an aged vintage it will be too salty for this tart but a one year old cheese would be perfect.
For the shortcrust pastry
unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
organic free-range medium egg
For the filling
medium Swiss chard stalks (200g), cut into 2cm batons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
organic/free-range medium eggs
rasps of nutmeg (optional)
Comté cheese, grated
Put the flour, butter and salt into a large bowl and rub lightly together using your fingertips until you have a sandy texture.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg and water. With your fingertips, gradually work the egg and water into the flour and butter mixture. You must judge the consistency of the dough yourself - if it is too wet add a little flour; if too dry, add a little water.
At the last moment, when the eggs have been absorbed, bring the dough together and press to form a ball.
Although hands are gentler and will give you a better pastry, you can make the pastry in a food processor, using the pulse button for no more than 30 seconds to bring the dough together (to avoid over-mixing).
Turn onto a lightly-floured surface and knead gently with your palms for just 10 seconds.
Break off 20-30g of dough, tightly wrap in cling film and refrigerate for later (to tuck in the dough).
Flatten the remaining dough into a round, 2 cm thick, and wrap in cling film.
Refrigerate for 20–30 minutes before rolling out.
To roll out the dough, place in the middle of a large sheet of cling film, about 40 cm square, and cover with another sheet of cling film, of similar dimensions.
Roll out the dough to a circle, 3 mm thick.
To line the tart ring, place it on a peel or flat tray lined with greaseproof paper.
Take off the top layer of cling film and discard, then lift the dough by picking up the corners of the cling film and invert it into the tart ring, removing the cling film.
Ease the pastry into the ring with your fingers and then tuck the dough into the edges using the little ball of dough, ensuring it is neatly moulded into the shape of the ring.
Trim the edges of the tart by rolling a rolling pin over the top of the ring.
Now, push the pastry edge gently up by pressing between your index finger and thumb all around the side of the tart ring, to raise the edge 2 mm above the ring.
By pushing the edge of the tart to 2 mm above the ring, you are compensating for any slight retraction of the pastry during cooking.
With a fork, lightly prick the bottom of the pastry case. This will allow the steam generated during cooking to escape, helping to keep the case flat and level.
Place the tart case in the fridge for 30 minutes to relax and firm up the pastry.
Allow the pastry to rest before you cook it, to minimise any shrinkage.
To prepare for baking, preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 3.
Place a baking stone or baking tray on the middle shelf of the oven.
To cook the Swiss chard melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium low heat, then add the chard batons, water and some seasoning.
Stir, then cover and cook gently for 10 minutes until the chard pieces are soft and melting, but holding their shape.
Drain and reserve.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and cream and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, if using.
Scatter the chard pieces evenly over the base of the tart case.
Slide the tart directly onto the hot baking stone or tray in the oven and gently pour in the creamy egg mixture.
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes until lightly souffléd and golden brown.
Leave to rest and cool slightly for 10 minutes before serving.
"For a successful pastry you need to have even distribution of butter within the flour, to give it flakiness. This is difficult to achieve if the butter is cold, so make sure it is at room temperature. Rub in delicately with your fingertips; do not try to knead."
"In place of the chard and Comté cheese, you could use crumbled Roquefort and celery, tomato and goat’s cheese, or pumpkin and spinach, topped with a handful of grated Comté!"
This recipe is adapted from the book Kitchen Secrets
Raymond’s love of delicious food is lifelong. Years of experience have given him a rich store of knowledge and the skill to create fantastic dishes that work time after time. With a range of achievable and inspirational recipes for cooks of all abilities - and useful tips throughout - this book brings Gallic passion and precision into the home kitchen.