Crab and watercress tarts

Delicate and light crab combined with fresh and peppery watercress, encased in flaky, buttery pastry make this an impeccable picnic delight or lunch time bake. The zesty citrus flavours and crisp acidity in Nyetimber’s Blanc de Blancs pairs perfectly with the salinity of crab in this delicious summery dish.

PREP TIME: 1 hour 40 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
Serves 8

500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
Sea salt
Black pepper
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
250g unsalted butter, cold and cubed, plus 1 extra tablespoon
6 Clarence Court hen eggs
6 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
50ml whole milk
200ml double cream
70g watercress, chopped (a few sprigs saved for garnish)
250g white crab meat, picked
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
A handful of pea shoots to garnish


  1. Place the plain flour in a large bowl with a generous pinch of salt and pepper along with the zest of 1 lemon. Mix well, then add the cold, cubed butter.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until flakes have formed.
  3. Separate 2 eggs and make a well in the centre of the flaked mixture, then add the egg yolks, followed by 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water.
  4. Use a dinner knife to incorporate the flour into the liquid and form a rough ball of dough, then pat the dough into a disc by hand. Cover in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
  5. Once the pastry has chilled, lightly dust a clean work surface with flour, then roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3mm.
  6. Line an 8x8cm loose bottomed tart tin and line with the freshly rolled pastry, allowing a little overhang. Prick the bases a few times with a fork and allow the pastry to chill in the fridge again for 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, place a small frying pan on a low heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and melt, then sauté the sliced spring onion for 5 minutes, or until just softened. Tip into a bowl and place to one side.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan, then remove the pastry cases from the fridge and lay them onto a baking sheet.
  9. Line each pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or rice, then blind bake for 10 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining egg white a little. Remove the baking beans and parchment, brush the inside of the cases with the egg white before returning the pastry case to the oven for a further 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Once baked, trim the excess pastry off with a Y-shaped peeler.
  11. Whisk the remaining eggs in a large mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt, pepper and a few gratings of lemon zest. Pour in the milk, cream, cooked spring onion and the chopped watercress then whisk again. Evenly distribute half the crab meat between the cases. Pour or ladle the mixture into the tart cases, then bake the tarts for 15-20 minutes, or until set and golden.
  12. Serve topped with the remaining crab, watercress sprigs, remaining lemon zest, pea shoots and chopped chilli. These tartlets can be eaten as a cold picnic lunch or fresh from the oven for a scrumptious, hot dinner.

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