About as South African a combination as one can get, seasonal waterblommetjies and West Coast smoked snoek make for a deliciously patriotic partnership in a robust lunchtime tart.
The buds of aquatically growing Aponogeton distachyos (predominant here in the Western Cape) are harvested in the wintertime and early spring, cleaned and cooked into a stew with lamb – the eponymous waterblommetjiebredie. A delicate white flower appears from buds shaped like a crab’s claw and one often sees intrepid swimmers harvesting the buds in dams, ponds and wetlands around the Cape.
With a taste not dissimilar to green beans, waterblommetjies are delicious in many dishes – with a favourite being my latest experiment; a waterblommetjie and smoked snoek tart. Developed with the addition of buttery shortcrust pastry made from scratch and a proudly local filling designed to bring winter comfort, this recipe provides a new angle to waterblommetjies instead of the traditional bredie. Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, but I am rather partial to anything involving fish.
Waterblommetjie and Smoked Snoek Tart
Prep time: 1 hour excl. soaking time /Cook time: 40 mins /Serves: 4-6
You will need:
For the shortcrust pastry:
- 225g cake flour
- 100g cold salted butter, diced
For the filling:
- 500g fresh waterblommetjies
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 450g smoked snoek, flaked
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 wheels of plain feta cheese
- 6 medium organic eggs
- 250ml pouring cream
- 100g Parmesan cheese, grated
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
Place the fresh waterblommetjies into a large bowl and cover with water. Stir in 2 tablespoons of salt and leave the waterblommetjies to soak overnight.
To make the shortcrust pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and add the cold diced butter. Using your fingertips or a pastry mixer, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in 2-3 tablespoons of water and combine to make a firm dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface until gently elastic before wrapping in clingfilm and chilling for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a 25cm pie dish with butter. Working on a floured surface, roll out the shortcrust pastry to a 1cm thickness and place into the pie dish, leaving the edges of the pastry to hang over the sides. Use a fork to prick holes in the pastry and press down the edges into a decorative pattern. Trim off any excess pastry.
Line the pastry base with baking paper and fill the hollow with baking beads or dried beans (I use heerboontjies) or rice. Par-bake the pastry case for 8-10 minutes before removing from the oven and leaving to cool.
Reduce the oven to 180°C. Gently fry the shallots in a little butter until tender. Break off the waterblommetjie leaves and thinly slice, discarding the stalks. Add to the shallots and fry for a minute. Set aside to cool slightly.
Flake the smoked snoek, removing any bones and skin. Add the flaked snoek to the waterblommetjie mixture, season with salt and pepper and transfer to the pastry case. Roughly crumble the feta over the snoek mixture. Beat the eggs with the cream and pour the mixture into the pastry case. Cover the top of the tart with grated Parmesan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until set in the middle and lightly browned on top. Leave the tart to cool slightly before serving.