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A HANDY TART FOR THE SUMMER…WHAT SUMMER?

Onion and Thyme tart

In this less than summery weather we are having, I always think things like quiches and tarts are useful to have in your repertoire. If it’s cold and grey (as per London as I write this) they can be eaten with new potatoes and a vegetable and if (by some miracle), we have sun and warmth, you can make them early in the day while it’s cool and eat them at room temperature with salad. I was extolling their virtues amongst a group of friends recently and I was a bit taken aback when one said, somewhat accusingly, “well I suppose you’re bl**** WonderWoman and always make your own pastry”. Ha, if only….no, I don’t.

It isn’t my favourite kitchen activity and if I didn’t have a Magimix, I am not sure I would ever make pastry. I nearly always have some ready made pastry tucked away in the freezer and my favourite is the French brand Marie La Pâte Feuilletée Ready Rolled Puff Pastry (no, I am not being paid to mention this). Rather conveniently the ready rolled round perfectly fits a 24cm flan tin so given that I nearly always have the other ingredients to hand for a tart or quiche, this cuts out the (for me) tedious part of the recipe. I’ll be honest and say that I used this by mistake the first time – I overlooked the fact that it was puff pastry but now I actually prefer it for this recipe.

This recipe owes its genesis to Sybil Kapoor’s Onion Tart in her book ‘Simply Veg” published by Pavilion (and I urge you to buy it – fabulous recipes that always work). As is my habit, however, I have tweaked and experimented – not least by using puff pastry – to make something that fits our personal tastes and sometimes, just uses what I have. This version is, however, the one we prefer and appears regularly, warm or cold. It puffs up massively while cooking and then when cold, sinks back to something that almost looks slightly disappointing. Do ignore this little failing, as the flavour is deeply savoury and rewarding; it also travels well for picnics or packed lunches.

I like to use a well flavoured olive oil for this as it is reflected in the final flavour and I have been getting good results recently with the Greek brand Charisma which even Edoardo admits is a very good oil. If the budget runs to it, the French Roscoff pink onions are superb in this recipe – their subtle flavour really shines through but use what you have or can source well.

If you want to use shortcrust pastry, please do – and if you want to make your own, well that’s good too!

ONION AND THYME TART

Print Recipe
Serves: 6 Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 packet Marie La Pâte Feuilletée Ready Rolled Puff Pastry or 170g shortcrust or puff pastry
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large or 3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste with sea salt salt under the blade of a knife
  • 2 tbsp thyme leaves, stripped from the branches (yes, I know it’s a pain but it’s worth it)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium eggs, well beaten
  • 200 ml creme frâiche or soured cream
  • 60g finely grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

1

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C fan and set a baking tray to heat

2

Line a 23/24cm flan tin with your chosen pastry

3

Prick the base and then line with baking parchment or greaseproof paper

4

Fill with baking beans and put on the heated baking tray to bake blind for 15 minutes

5

Remove the beans and paper and return to the oven for a further 5 - 7 minutes until the pastry is golden brown

6

While all this is going on in the oven, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a low to medium heat

7

Add the onions and garlic and fry gently for about 20 minutes; some colour is fine but we’re not looking for a high degree of browning here which would impair the fresh flavour

8

Add the thyme leaves and stir around to distribute evenly amongst the onions and garlic

9

Remove from the heat and seasonTransfer to the pastry case, spreading them evenly

10

Add the creme frâiche or soured cream to the beaten eggs, season well with freshly ground black pepper and add to the onions in the pastry case

11

I don’t add salt here as the Parmesan gives enough for our tastes

12

Gently mix it into the onion mixture being careful not to pierce the pastry which your not - so -Watchful Cook has done on one occasion

13

Sprinkle with the cheese and return to the oven, on the baking tray, for 25 minutes until puffed up and golden brown

Notes

Eat this warm (but not hot) or cold with salt or vegetables, depending on the weather!

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ASPARAGUS TART

I suppose this is based on a quiche but having experimented, I have decided that for me, a shallow tart with a crisp, short pastry gives the elegant proportions for asparagus. With other ingredients, I might use a higher proportion of filling to pastry (ie a deeper tart) but somehow, this works well as a light, summery savoury tart. Oh, and I unapologetically use my Magimix for making pastry, as I don’t have a light hand with pastry, but do what works for you! In terms of the cheeses, I have made this with Cheddar, Cheshire, Emmental and Gruyere in the egg mixture and it’s worked well. Parmesan in the mixture was less successful, as was Roquefort, both of which overpowered the asparagus (although I have other recipes using both of those in the mixture that are yummy). Dusting the top with Parmesan isn’t essential either and you can equally use Padano. We love this served warm, not hot, with a crisp green salad and a chilled white wine. I prefer not to use lemon juice in the salad dressing where I’ve used asparagus; somehow, for me, the flavours of asparagus and lemon fight unpleasantly so I avoid putting them together on the same plate.

ASPARAGUS TART

Print Recipe
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • PASTRY - 175g plain flour plus extra for dusting
  • 45g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 40g lard, cut into small cubes
  • FILLING - 350g asparagus
  • 40g grated Gruyere cheese
  • 15g finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 200ml single cream
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper

Instructions

1

PASTRY - Sieve flour into bowl of processor, add cubed fats and process until resembling breadcrumbs

2

Add about three tablespoons of water and process until pastry comes together in a ball

3

Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least half an hour

4

Then lightly flour work surface, roll out thinly and use to line a 20cm shallow loose bottomed flan tin

5

Put in fridge for another half hour or so, during which pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C fan

6

After the half hour is up, prick the bottom of the pastry base lightly with a fork and line with parchment and baking beans

7

Place on a baking sheet and out in the oven for 10 minutes

8

Then remove the parchment and beans and bake for another 10 minutes

9

Remove and set aside while filling is prepped.

10

FILLING - Starting with the asparagus, snap off the ends at the natural break point and steam for about five minutes

11

Drain really well, mopping with kitchen paper - if you neglect this step, you may end up with watery, soggy tart, which is just horrid!

12

Cut into 1cm pieces and arrange over the pastry base

13

Beat together eggs, cream and the Cheddar or Gruyere and season

14

Pour the mixture carefully over the asparagus and sprinkle with the Parmesan

15

Place carefully on a baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes, until top is golden brown and the centre feels firm