After an amazing half day spent foraging in Hackney with Jon the Poacher, I needed to think of something to do with the handfuls of pretty young wild chervil I had picked, also known as cow parsley. And this turned out perfectly as a light dinner and would also make a great starter.
If you don’t lie crab, you could use tinned or fresh salmon or tuna instead.
And if you don’t want to risk picking the chervil, you could use any other mild herb, like parsley or chives would work too.
Oh. And chervil. Right now (March, UK) it is everywhere for the picking. Do not confuse it with hemlock. The stems of wild chervil are furrowed, meaning they have a little groove in them. The plants aren’t as tall either as hemlock.
If in any doubt, don’t pick it as hemlock is poisonous.
For the base
250g plain flour
125g cold butter
pinch of salt
2 tsp hot smoked paprika (but an paprika will do or you could use pul biber, which are fine Turkish mild chilli flakes)
For the filling
1 dressed crab
1-2 big handfuls of wild chervil, also known as Cow Parsley
about 100g grated good quality cheddar or other firm cheese (I used Westcombe cheddar)
1 cup low fat yoghurt
1 cup double cream
3-4 free range eggs
salt & pepper
pinch of pul biber (optional)
In a bowl, grate the cold butter onto the flour. I find it easier to fold it in once or twice with a fork as I’m grating, to stop the butter ending up in a lump more difficult to manage. Quickly and with cold hands use your fingers to work the flour and butter into little breadcrumbs. If you use your palms, the dough will warm up too quickly. Add a tablespoon or so of cold water to work the pastry into a dough. Don’t overwork it. Flatten the dough round slightly, cover it in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes. If you are pressed for time, you can skip this bit but will need to roll out the dough and put it into the tart tin more quickly as it will become clumsier to work with as it warms up.
Heat the over to 180c/160 c fan.
Take the dough out of the fridge and place the flattened dough between two sheets of greaseproof (baking) paper. If you don’t have any, just used a lightly floured work surface and rub some flour too onto the rolling pin. If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a flat sided bottle. Roll the dough out to fit your tart tin and place it gently onto the tin. You can do this by lifting off the top baking paper sheet and gently turning it over onto the tin and lifting off the other baking sheet. Scrunch up one of the sheets with your hands and leave it to one side. Very gently pressing the pastry into the corners (with your fingers or a bit of the remaining baking sheet or cling film). Depending on your tart tin, you may or may not need to grease and flour the tin first. Most modern tart tins now don’t need it but some do. If in doubt, grease and line the tin. If your tin doesn’t have a base that lifts out from the sides, it is probably best to line the base anyway as it will be easier to remove once baked.
If you have time to blind bake the pastry do. Unscrunch the scrunched up bit of baking paper and lay it over the base. Pour in some baking beans (or any dry beans). If you gently fold some of the paper over the top sides of the tart it will stop it burning. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes and a further five without the paper and beans. Remove from the oven and let it cool a little while you get the filling ready.
Remove the white crab flesh from the darker meat and keep them to one side. Grate the cheese and finely chop the chervil. Beat the eggs lightly with the yoghurt and cream, fold in the brown crab meat and season.
Scatter the cheese over the base of the tart followed by the white crab meat and then the chervil. Pour over the egg mixture and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The tart should be lightly browned and the filling set.
Serve on its own or with a salad of green leaves.