Butternut tart with caramelized fennel

Butternut tart

Tart pan, tart pan
Who’s got a tart pan?
I do, that’s who.
Salty or sweet,
messy or neat,
Who can make tarts now?
I can.

Did I tell you that I got a tart pan? I did? I’m totally not excited about it at all. I’m, like, pfffft. Tart pan, whatever.

I used it last week to make a sweet tart. And I used it this week to make a savory tart! I wanted it to be a bit like a pumpkin pie – with the butternut squash roasted, pureed and mixed into a sort of custard. And I thought the fennel would be pretty AND tasty, it’s bright distinctive taste mellowed by a bit of caramelization in white wine and balsamic vinegar. I put some lemon zest in the crust, to tart up the tart, because squash and fennel are quite sweet. I thought very hard about the seasoning, because I’m making a real effort to keep it simple – to choose two or three herbs and spices that go well together. I chose nutmeg and sage – both very nice with butternut squash, and quite lovely together!

Here’s Art Pepper with Nutmeg


1 batch of Paté Brisée, with the zest of half a lemon and lots of black pepper worked into the flour at the beginning. You’ll probably have some leftover, but this dough makes very nice Isaac crackers.


1 cup (+/-) roasted butternut squash. (Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, place it face-down on a baking tray and cook it at 425 for about half an hour to 40 minutes, depending on the size. I used about half of a smallish one.)

1 medium-sized fennel bulb, core removed, sliced in half top to bottom, and then sliced crosswise into semi-circles about 1/4 inch thick.

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar or gruyere
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t sage
2 T butter
1 T balsamic
1/3 cup white wine
1 small clove garlic – well-minced
2 bay leaves
salt & plenty of pepper

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, the bay leaves, and the sage, and then the fennel. Cook, stirring from time to time until the fennel starts to grow soft and brown. It will take up less room in the pan, eventually. Add balsamic and white wine as the pan gets dry, and stir and cook until the fennel is quite brown and the pan quite dry. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Remove the bay leaves.

Put the squash in a large bowl and mash it with a fork till it’s quite smooth. Add the eggs and milk and beat till you have a smoothish batter. Add the cheese and the nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 400. Roll out your dough, and fit it into the tart pan, making the very edges quite thick. Pre-bake it for 10 or 15 minutes, till it just starts to look less shiny and more solid. If the edges droop down, squeeze them against the size of the pan to persuade them to go back up again.

Pour the butternut custard into the tart. Arrange the fennel over it. You can do this one piece at a time and make a pretty pattern, or you can spread it in a nice jumble. Try to distribute it fairly evenly, though.

Bake the tart for about half an hour, till it seems set and starts to brown in places.

Let it sit for a few minutes before you cut into it.


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