Hogweed and Cheese Tart
This mouthwatering tart is easy to prepare. Its filling is a simple bechamel sauce, infused with the umami of smoked cheese, which perfectly complements the fresh herbal flavour of the hogweed. Use hogweed florets or young, tender leaf shoots, depending on availability.
- 80g common hogweed shoots or florets
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 30g butter
- 30g plain flour
- 250ml milk
- 30g smoked cheddar (use unsmoked if you prefer), grated
- 1 × 160g sheet ready-rolled puff pastry (all butter, for preference)
- A little beaten egg, to glaze (optional)
- Set a large pan of water over a high heat and bring to a boil. Wash the hogweed florets or shoots and trim away and discard any thick, fibrous stems. Add salt to the boiling water, then throw in the hogweed. Boil until just tender, about 2 minutes, then drain in a colander and rinse with cold running water to cool and preserve their colour. Drain well, then lay the hogweed on one half of a clean tea towel. Fold the tea towel over the hogweed and press gently to remove excess moisture.
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
- To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a small pan set over a low heat. Stir in the flour and cook very gently for a minute, then gradually beat in the milk. Let the sauce simmer gently for about 4 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Set aside a handful of the cheese for topping the tart, and add the rest to the hot sauce. Stir well to combine and taste for seasoning. Stir in the prepared hogweed and mix gently.
Unroll the puff pastry, leaving it on its sheet of greaseproof paper. Fold over a 1cm strip all around the edges of the tart to hold in the sauce, cutting away the excess at the corners if necessary. (Depending on the thickness of your pastry, you may need to fold the edges over twice to give a thicker edge.) Lift the pastry on its paper onto a large baking sheet and brush the edges with beaten egg (if using).
- Fill the centre of the tart with the hogweed and sauce mixture, gently teasing the hogweed to distribute it evenly. Scatter over the reserved cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, until the pastry is golden and crisp and the filling is nicely browned on top.
- Serve warm with a wild green salad.
Recipe by Wild Food UK; development and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK