Make Ahead

Definitive fennel, olive and spinach pesto tart

November  4, 2021
0 Ratings
Photo by theItalianbkr
  • Prep time 6 hours
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • makes 1 tart plus extra pastry to freeze for later
Author Notes

One of my favourite comfort foods? Savoury tarts. The choice of fillings is endless, and they are damn easy, damn delicious.

Well, until your Italian grandma appears in your dreams and tells you ‘What? Ready-made puff pastry? Shame on you. And what are you going to do with all that crap on top? That’s not good for you.’

Ok nonna, fair enough.

Now, the thing is, most people love tasty savoury tarts, but not everyone has a lovely grandma to teach them a good recipe. Superhero cap, on. Saving the world from ready-made puff pastry, bad taste and angry (lovely) grandmas.

Don’t look any further.

My definitive fennel, olive and spinach pesto tart simply rocks the party. Let’s go through the happy grandma check:

- Tastes ridiculously good – yes
- Made from scratch melt-in-the-mouth flaky and buttery pastry – yes
- A little messy to eat (grandmas still wanna have fun after all) – yes
- Once finished eating, doggy bag or coming back for more – yes

Any more yes-es needed? Get in touch, we can discuss.

I think it’s fair to say that this tart is a bit rustic, with some really bold flavours. It makes the perfect picnic lunch. Or just the perfect lunch. Or just the…

It works well at any time of the day.

The puff pastry is crisp crisp crisp. The olive tapenade is sweet and sour. The fennel is crunchy and fresh. The spinach pesto is like the cherry on top. Just greener. I mean, look at the picture…

Now, time for some additional grandma wisdom.

The final taste may vary depending on the olives you decide to use. In this case, I really recommend kalamata olives, as their distinctive note matches beautifully with the warm and slightly sweet aniseed-liquorice flavour of the fennel. Lemon marinated fennel, as we don’t want that to be too sweet, grandma says.

And grandma also says ‘Please, please, tell your friends not to skip the spinach pesto on top, it’s not only there to make you eat your greens. The garlic in it is the pungent kick that lifts the whole tart to a completely different level, and the bright green colour will make you start eating with your eyes even before you’ve sliced the tart up.’ —theItalianbkr

What You'll Need
  • 250 grams unsalted butter, softened (for lamination)
  • 50 grams plain flour (for lamination)
  • 250 grams plain flour
  • 135 grams water
  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 5 grams lemon juice
  • 8 grams salt
  • 100 grams olives (I used 50g black and 50g kalamata)
  • 40 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large fennel (or 2 small ones)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 50 grams fresh spinach leaves
  • 20 grams walnuts
  • 20 milliliters water
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Cut a piece of cling film or baking parchment about 40cm long and place it on the work surface. Add the lamination butter to a bowl and beat it a few times with a spatula to loosen it up. Add the lamination flour and mix until combined. Place the butter on one side of the cling film and fold the other side over. Spread the butter mixture and flatten it to achieve a squared shape of 15cm side and about 1cm thick. You can use the back of a knife or a ruler to help you to keep the sides neat and straight. Take your time, the neater the square, the neater the lamination will be. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. After 45 minutes, make the dough (detrempe’). Combine the flour and butter and rub them with your fingers to obtain a crumbly consistency. Add the water, lemon juice and salt and bring together into a dough. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Shape the dough into a rough square, wrap with cling film or baking parchment and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Take the rested dough out of the fridge. Flour the work surface and roll out the dough until you get an even rectangle measuring 32x16cm. If necessary, trim the sides to get straight edges. During the whole process, it is very important that you keep the dough size as regular and tidy as possible, to achieve a perfect lamination. Take the square or lamination butter out of the fridge and place it in the middle of the rectangle and fold both ends of the dough over to cover the butter. If you got your sizes right, they should neatly meet in the centre of the square and wrap the butter entirely.
  4. Now perform a ‘single turn’. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it to a long rectangle measuring 45x15cm. Keep the sides nice and flat by adjusting them while you roll them out. Fold the top third of the dough onto the middle third, and then fold the bottom third over the other two (like a letter). You should end up again with a nice 15x15cm square. Wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
  5. After 1 hour, perform two ‘single turns’, one after the other. After the second turn, you will notice the dough is getting stiffer and the butter is starting to soften. Refrigerate the dough for another hour. Repeat this whole step, so that in the end you will have done 5 single turns. Put the dough to rest in the refrigerator for 1 more hour.
  6. For the tart recipe, you will need about 350g pastry. I recommend you take the chilled pastry and weigh it. It should be roughly 700g. Simply use half of it for this recipe and freeze the other half for later use. While your puff pastry rests, you have plenty of time to prepare the tart toppings. If you made your puff pastry in advance, skip directly to this step of the recipe
  7. Slice the fennel very thinly, trying to slice also a bit of the bottom core so the slices keep together and don’t fall apart. Pour the juice of 1 lemon in a bowl, add the fennel slices, season with salt and pepper and leave to marinate for at least 1hr in the fridge.
  8. To make the olive tapenade, add the olives (make sure all pits are removed) to half of the oil and blitz together until you achieve a smooth paste. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
  9. To make the spinach pesto, add the spinach, walnuts, the other half of the olive oil, water and garlic clove to a bowl or food processor and blitz to a smooth consistency. Season to taste and set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
  10. Heat the oven to 190°C conventional mode. Take the pastry out of the fridge and leave it to warm at room temperature for about 10 minutes before rolling out to a 4mm thickness, trying to achieve a nice rectangular shape. Transfer over a sheet of baking parchment and move onto a baking tray. With a small knife, score a line all along the rectangle, about 2cm from the edge of the pastry, to create a border. Be careful to only score the top of the pastry, and not to cut all the way through.
  11. Spread the olive tapenade covering all the pastry inside the border line, leaving the outer border uncovered. Top with the slices of marinated fennel, add a nice grind of black pepper and a pinch of salt and bake for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is puffed up and golden, and the fennels start to lightly char. Leave to cool for five minutes, drizzle the spinach pesto all over the top of the tart, slice up and enjoy this simple yet what? Yep, damn good tart, damn gooood tart.

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