Master the art of the tart

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

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

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