This French-Canadian tradition is absolutely synonymous with wintertime and the holidays; it’s those warming, almost sweet spices—allspice, nutmeg and cloves—that give it its Noël je ne sais quoi. We’ve made them vegetarian so everyone can partake, and we’ve added a little sweet potato for extra flavour and nutrition. Go ahead and start with your favourite pastry recipe, or make life easier and use a really good frozen pie crust (it’ll be our little secret). We use a food processor to get a superfine texture, but if you don’t have one, simply chop really well with a good knife.
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
8 cups finely chopped mushrooms; meaty shiitake or oyster are best
1 cup raw walnut pieces
2 100-g pkg whole, prepared chestnuts (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp dried summer savory
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 cup peeled, grated sweet potato
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian or flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry
1/2 cup mushroom broth
2 batches pie pastry or 48 frozen tartelette shells
1 free-run egg
1 tsp oil
In bowl of food processor, add garlic, onion, mushrooms, walnuts and chestnuts; pulse until a fine crumb overall. There will be some smaller bits and a few larger bits, but that’s OK.
In large skillet over medium heat, stir together oil, butter and mushroom mixture. Add savory, salt, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and allspice; stir to fully combine. Reduce heat to low if sticking; cook, stirring continuously, about 5 minutes.
Add sweet potato, parsley, sherry and broth; stir well and continue to cook until mixture is dry but not sticking or burning, about 10 to 15 more minutes. Remove from heat, set aside and let cool.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
While mushroom mixture is cooling, make pastry or prepare frozen tart shells. Line 12 ungreased tins with the tart shells, then dock or prick the bottoms with a fork to prevent the pastry from bubbling up; fill with a heaping pile of the mushroom mixture. Top with round of pastry or flattened tart shell, then use a fork to press the crusts together; with the tip of a knife, make a few slits in the tops to allow steam to escape.
In small bowl, use fork to beat together egg and oil for egg wash. Using pastry brush, apply egg wash to tarts.
Bake until crust is golden and flaky, about 35 to 45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature with a little chutney on the side—Branston pickle is just about perfect!—or how about a side of our very own Rye-Spiked Caramelized Onions?
From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for LCBO’s Food & Drink, Manna Pro Hearty Homestead, The Harvest Commission, and Today’s Parent; she published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015.