Cost: about 80p, or £1.60 with mozzarella to serve. Serves 2 as a main course or more as a side dish.
A summery version of the Savoury Spring Tart – or really, for this almost-summer that we find ourselves in now, when we’re still willing the good weather to fully take hold, but meanwhile ingredients need a bit of helping along. We made two versions of this tomato tart, one with gorgeous, pungent vine cherry tomatoes (from Lidl!) and one with those watery supermarket tomatoes that cost almost nothing but taste of exactly nothing. For tomatoes like these, which don’t really stand up to eating on their own, the flavour is encouraged along with a slick of tomato puree and a tangle of caramelised onions, as well as a grinding of flaky Maldon salt before the heat and extra time in the oven reminds them of what tomatoes are supposed to taste like and burnishes the pastry to a deeper gold. The onions in this version also protect the pastry from sogginess, but with really good cherry tomatoes they aren’t really needed to help the flavours sing.
Both of these are very enjoyable – the paler tart with cherry tomatoes is more delicate and the tomatoes aren’t cooked as much as they are warmed, the oven heat just ripening them a little more, and the tart really just shows them off. The darker tart is more complex, with punchier flavours – more umami, salt and sugar, a symphony rather than a solo.
The pastry here is exactly the same as for the Savoury Spring Tart, but because the filling here is more delicate, I used half a bath for each, rolling it out very thinly – half the thickness of a pound coin. It does shrink a bit and is trickier to roll out. The trick is to keep it very cold and roll it between two layers of cling film. I found that I could remove one layer and lift the pastry, cling film up, into the case, but it was too sticky to remove the top layer. Putting the whole thing into the freezer for 10 minutes whilst the oven preheats firms everything up so that you can remove the cling film easily. I can’t recommend this pastry enough – the food processor does all the work, so you don’t even get your hands dirty – and it bakes beautifully into flaky layers, with a gorgeous crumbly texture and just enough bite from the semolina. Cooking it for slightly longer enhances its biscuit-like properties. I would serve it in rounds with coffee after a dinner party, with cheese, if only I liked cheese.
Recipe: Summer Tomato Tart, two ways
About 20 very good cherry tomatoes (i.e. enjoyable to eat raw as a snack), halved across the equator
or 10 salad tomatoes, no minimum quality requirement, halved from the North Pole to the South Pole and sliced into four and 1 onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced and fried in a little oil until soft, dark and sweet
1-2 Tbsp tomato puree
a few fresh basil leaves and a ball of mozzarella, to serve
Quantities given are for one tart, but if you make a double batch the other half can stay, wrapped in cling film, in the fridge for a week or the freezer for much longer.
(adapted from How to be a Domestic Goddess)
125g plain flour
1 Tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
40g lard, cubed
100g butter, cubed (for dairy-free, use baking margarine. The ratio of lard to butter can be as high as 1:1 depending on what you have on hand)
3-4 Tbsp iced water, to bind
1. Place all the ingredients except the iced water into the bowl of a food processor, and leave in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. During this time, grease the sides and base of a 23cm tart tin (ideally with a removable base), and prepare the ice water.
2. Sprinkle a tablespoon of ice water into the food processor bowl and pulse in short bursts until the texture turns sandy, then add water in half tablespoons, pulsing for about 10 seconds each time, until the pastry takes on the texture of gravel rather than sand, then carry on pulsing without adding more water – it should come together slowly and eventually mass into a smooth whole. We want to add as little water as possible to minimise shrinkage in the oven. Divide the pastry in half and press each one into a fat disc and wrap in cling film, then leave in the fridge to rest for 30 mins.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C, with a baking sheet inside. Roll the pastry out between two sheets of cling film, using short movements and turning frequently to ensure evenness and discourage the pastry from cracking, peeling off and replacing the cling film if necessary to prevent it tearing. Remove one layer of cling film and use the other to lift the pastry into the centre of the tart tin (cling film up!), then from the centre out, press the pastry in, especially making sure to reach the corners. If the pastry is too soft to remove the other layer of cling film, put it in the freezer for another 10 minutes or so, and then carefully peel it away. Fold any excess pastry inwards over the rim of the tin.
4. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork. No need to bake it blind because it’s such a thin layer. Slide the tart tin onto the hot baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until pale gold, then remove and spread the tomato purée in a thin layer over the base with a knife, pressing the pastry down if necessary. Return to the oven for 5 minutes.
5. Take the tart out and spread the caramelised onions evenly over the base, if using, and then arrange the tomatoes in a single layer.
Grind salt and pepper over the tomatoes and return to the oven. The very good tomatoes will only need another 10-15 minutes or so, and the pastry will still be pale gold.
The less good tomatoes need another 25 minutes – the pastry should be the colour of digestive biscuits and any stray tendrils of onion will have crisped up.
6. Tear some basil leaves over the cooked tart and serve warm with slices of very cold mozzarella.