Every year I try to come up with some plant-based alternatives to Turkey. Most of the time I’m drawn to winter squash for their versatility and beauty. This year for my veggie Christmas main (which was also for Thanksgiving), I made a savoury butternut squash tart in a walnut-oat crust. I topped it off with balsamic-caramelised shallots and some baby kale. It was an utter delight!!
The filling is slightly creamy and sweet and you get the savoury flavour from the crust and shallots. It pairs VERY well with a bit of gravy (I make mine with veg stock, brown onions, lots of marmite and MSG) which I think is a *must* when it comes to a Holiday main. I use chickpea flour with water to set the filling but, if you’re not vegan/making it for vegans, an egg can be used instead.
If you’re not feeling up for making a tart crust (understandable when theres 10000 other things to make for Christmas lunch), you can always buy chilled shortcrust pastry from the supermarket and use that instead as it’s usually vegan-friendly.
Serving size/serving more people
This recipe makes one smallish tart, enough for 4 people as a main with sides. You could even cut it into 8 pieces to have as a starter! If you’re cooking for more people, the recipe doubles very well and can be made as one large tart in a 28cm (11-inch) loose-based tart tin.
To make ahead of time
To make this ahead of time you can prep the tart crust, filling and shallots the day before serving and leave them all separate. You can keep the crust out at room temperature but chill the filling & shallots. About 30 minutes before you’re about to serve, stir the filling up (as it may have thickened), spread it into the crust, and bake the tart as instructed in the recipe. Finally, warm up the shallots in their pan on the stove or in the oven (covered with a lid, for around 5 minutes) and top the tart with the warm shallots & a handful of leaves.
- 500g (1 lb) butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed
- 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large or 5 small garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tsp chilli crisp (optional)*
- 3 tbsp chickpea flour (see notes)
- 3 tbsp water
- zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
- Salt, to taste
- 60g (1/2 cup) walnuts
- 45g (1/2 cup) rolled oats
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 120g (1 cup) plain white (all-purpose) flour
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 to 4 tbsp non-dairy milk or water
- 200g (7 ounces) shallots, halved, peeled
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- handful of salad leaves, to serve (optional)
Cook the squash:
- Cut the butternut squash into roughly 2 inch (5cm) chunks. Heat the olive oil in a large pot (I use a dutch oven here) on the stove over a medium heat. Once hot, add the squash and a pinch of salt and stir to coat. Cover with a lid and lower the heat to medium-low. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chunks and soft and starting to break down (about 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside.
Make the crust:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (350°F).
- Place the walnuts and oats in a food processor and blitz until you get a scruffy mealy texture. Add the baking powder, salt, fennel seeds and flour to the food processor and pulse to combine. Add the olive oil and 2 tbsp of the non-dairy milk and pulse together until you get a cohesive dough. You may need to add more milk to get it to come together.
- Crumble the dough into the base of a 23-cm (9-inch) springform cake tin (or a loose-based tart tin) and use your fingertips to press it down into an even layer over the base and up the sides of the tin (in a springform tin it should come up about 3cm high). Reserve a little bit of the dough for patching up cracks later on. Prick the crust all over with a fork.
- Place the cake tin/tart tin on a baking sheet and then into the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes until it looks dry. Remove from the oven and use the reserved pastry to patch up any cracks that may have formed. Set the crust aside.
Make the filling:
- Blend the cooked squash until smooth - you can either do this straight in the pot using an immersion blender (hand blender/stick blender) or by transferring it to a food processor/blender and blitzing, then transferring to a mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining filling ingredients and stir together. Taste and season with salt as needed.
- Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top looks set and dry.
Cook the shallots:
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy, oven-proof frying pan/skillet over a medium heat. Sprinkle over the sugar in an even layer and then lay the shallots cut side-down over the sugar.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and leave to cook until you get a nice brown crust underneath (about 5 minutes). Flip each half over and allow to cook until the other side is browned (about 5 minutes again).
- Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and then pour in the balsamic vinegar. Cover with a lid or a piece of foil and transfer to the oven - roast for 15-20 minutes until the shallots are soft all the way through. Remove from the oven and uncover.
Finish the tart:
- Top the cooked tart with some leafy greens (I used baby kale) and the caramelised shallots. Serve warm.
- *I use the Lao Gan Ma 'crispy chilli in oil' which is BANGING!! Get yourself some from your local East Asian food shop, or online.
- If you're not vegan, you can use 1 egg instead of the 3 tbsp chickpea flour + 3 tbsp water in the filling.
- Tart crust adapted from Amy Chaplin
- This recipe makes one smallish tart, enough for 4 people as a main with sides. You could even cut it into 8 pieces to have as a starter though. If you're cooking for more people, the recipe doubles very well and can be made as one large tart in a 28cm (11-inch) loose-based tart tin.