|Buttery Tomato Tart: an easy recipe, and no soggy bottom. Photograph|
by Michael Le Grange, courtesy of Random House Struik.
This easy recipe comes from my book Scrumptious: Food for Family & Friends, and it's one I make often when cherry tomatoes are in high season, as they are now in South Africa.
I have a few vines growing in my garden, but I have to say they are not a patch on the glorious sweet tomatoes spilling out of supermarket shelves. I've tried growing many different varieties of miniature tomatoes over the years, under the most organic of circumstances, but every summer I'm disappointed by my crop because their skins are so leathery. Sure, they have a wonderful and mysterious grassy taste that is quite absent in supermarket tomatoes, but they're really not suitable for a dish like this because I'd have to peel every one of them. And who has time for peeling cherry tomatoes?
For this recipe, in order to prevent soggy-bottom syndrome, I pre-bake the pastry cases and pile in the filling just before I serve them. You can prepare both the filling and the pastry cases in advance - see my Cook's Notes at the end of this page.
Please don't skimp on the butter or cream in this recipe. They are the best friends of tomatoes.
Buttery Tomato Tart
8 Tbsp (120 ml/120 g) butter
2 tsp (10 ml) olive oil
1 kg ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes
2 thumb-length sprigs fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped or grated
a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
salt and milled black pepper
6 Tbsp (90 ml) fresh cream
2 rolls ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
a beaten egg, for brushing
For the topping:
150 g mild, creamy white cheese, such as feta, ricotta or proper mozzarella
a handful of fresh baby herb leaves: oregano, marjoram or basil
Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and add the whole tomatoes and herb sprigs. Cook, tossing often, over a high heat, for 5-7 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened. Using a potato masher, lightly crush the tomatoes to release their juices.
Add the garlic and chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat and cook at a vigorous bubble for 5 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly. Stir in the cream and bubble for another few minutes. Discard the herb sprigs and keep warm.
Set the oven to 180 °C and heat two baking sheets. Unroll each puff pastry cylinder and roll out lightly to increase its size by about 2 cm on all sides. Using a sharp knife, trim a 1-cm-wide strip off each edge. Brush the pastry with beaten egg and prick all over with a fork. Place the strips of pastry around the edges of the rectangle to form a raised border. Mark a chevron pattern on the border, using a knife. Brush the borders with egg.
Cut out two rectangles of foil exactly the same size as the base (measure by placing the foil over the pastry and running your thumbnail around the inside edge of the border). Place the foil on top of the pastry. Lift the pastry sheets, on their paper, and place them on the hot baking sheets (you may need another pair of hands for this). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Don’t worry if the middle of the pastry puffs up; it will soon subside.
Peel off the foil and place the pastry bases on wire racks so the bottoms remain crisp. Just before you serve the tarts, spread the warm tomato filling over the bases. Scatter with nuggets of cheese and a sprinkling of baby herb leaves. Slice into squares and serve immediately.
Serves 8 as a snack.
- The pastry bases can be prepared, ready for cooking, up to 8 hours in advance and kept covered in the fridge.
- Once baked and cooled, the pastry bases will remain crisp for at least two hours at room temperature, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.
- Bring the pastry up to room temperature before it goes into the oven.
- You can prepare the tomato sauce up to 24 hours in advance and warm it gently before spreading it over the pastry.