Master the art of the tart
Ihave to admit I’m not usually a savoury tart kind of person. It’s not just that quiche is unfashionable; rather that, over the years, unpleasant offerings at the supermarket deli counter – soggy pastry, damp onion with a miserly sprinkling of goat’s cheese, horrible leathery scraps of sun-dried tomato – have really put me off.
But recently I have overcome my prejudice and got rather into savoury tarts – and when they are good, they are very, very good. These recipes are simple and really tasty. Nothing groundbreaking, but all absolutely delicious. The beetroot tart is a stunner, and the mixture of crème fraîche, egg yolk and Parmesan is a real winner that you can use again and again on different tarts.
Caerphilly is my new favourite cheese. I’m working a lot right now, and odd though it might seem, often end up coming home late from the restaurant and starving: in that situation there’s not much better than cheese on toast and Caerphilly is certainly my preferred option.
I’ve had the Tamasin DayLewis book The Art of the Tart for years but only now have I been moved to take a really good look at it. It’s a bountiful source of inspiration for any tart-lover. I’m giving a version of one of her recipes here, but the whole book is full of gems. I know that savoury tarts are a bit trickier in general as you have to plan ahead with pastry and things, but they’re also something you can make in advance and leave to sit for a few hours (not too long, or else you may find yourself edging into Soggy Bottom territory). You can play around with combinations and end up with some great recipes. Just be careful not to make them overcomplicated – stick to one or two main flavours and you’ll be fine.
Tamasin Day-Lewis’s follow-up to the Art of the Tart, called Smart Tart, has recently been published by Unbound; £20 hardback; £5 e-book, unbound.co.uk. If you can’t find beetroot still with the leaves on, a couple of handfuls of spinach is a worthy alternative. I like to use the pretty pink candy cane beetroots for this recipe, but the deep red ones are also perfect.
Serves 4-6 180g/6oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting 120g/4½oz cold butter, cut into cubes 6 medium beetroots, leaves reserved 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked 3 bay leaves Olive oil 2 handfuls of small black olives, destoned 150g/5oz crème fraîche 3 tbsp grated Parmesan or pecorino, plus extra to finish 1 egg yolk, beaten
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/ gas 6. Make the pastry first by mixing the flour and the cold butter in a large bowl and rubbing them together with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of cold water until the pastry just comes together. Gather together into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, slice the beetroots into ½cm-thick rounds. Place in a bowl with the garlic, thyme and bay and season well. Add a few generous glugs of oil and mix well with your hands. Cover a baking tray in foil and lightly oil. Spread out the beetroot in an even layer, then add a few splashes of water, then place in the oven for 10 minutes until just cooked.
Place the beetroot leaves in a pan with a few splashes of water, cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat until wilted, then scoop out and leave to cool and drain on kitchen paper.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and on a lightly dusted surface, roll it out to a thickness of ½cm– the edges can be quite rough. Transfer to a large flat baking tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes until lightly golden, then remove and leave to cool.
When cool, scatter the cooked beetroot, its leaves and the olives over the pastry. In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche, Parmesan and egg yolk and season with a little salt and pepper. Dollop over the tart, making sure the tart is nicely covered, then dust the entire tart in a little Parmesan. Place in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until the crème fraîche is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. I recently discovered the deliciousness of melted Caerphilly – it makes simply the best cheese on toast. If you have a cheesemonger near you, it’s definitely worth trying to get some of the aged version. 500g/1lb ready-made shortcrust pastry Flour, for dusting 200g/7oz ricotta Olive oil 3-4 courgettes 2 handfuls of purple or green basil leaves 50g/2oz Caerphilly or Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/ gas 6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and use to line a 22cm loose-bottomed tart tin (you won’t need all the pastry). Place in the freezer for 15 minutes until just frozen, then place in the oven for 15 minutes to blind bake. Leave to cool.
Combine the ricotta with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Spread a layer of the ricotta over the pastry base.
Slice the courgettes into 2-3mmthick pieces on the diagonal and place in bowl. Rip in the basil leaves, season with salt and pepper, and add a good splash of oil. Mix well to combine, then prettily sit on top of the ricotta. Crumble the Caerphilly into small bits with your hands and scatter it over the courgette. Drizzle in a little extra oil, then place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and slightly bubbling. Serve warm. This is inspired by one ofmy favourite recipes from Tamasin Day-Lewis’s The Art of the Tart. I have slightly adjusted it by using
Listen Caerphilly, I shall say this only once: clockwise from above, beetroot and crème fraîche tart; courgette and Caerphilly tart; finocchiona and tomato tarts