“The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer’s day; the Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and took them clean away. The King of Hearts called for the tarts, and beat the Knave full sore; the Knave of Hearts brought back the tarts, and vowed he’d steal no more.” ~ Traditional
A vegetable tart makes a perfect lunch, works well for picnics, or can be served for a light and tasty dinner. I made this one yesterday, inspired by what I harvested in the garden and what was lurking in the fridge.
My friend Sally was coming to lunch so that we could talk about trees, writing and art – and with such an important agenda, having some appetizing offerings was paramount.
Our menu ended up being vegetable tart and green salad with miso-ginger dressing, followed by little mulberry and apple pies with a splodge of cream and lashings of French Earl Grey tea.
It was the perfect accompaniment to discussing our many projects and setting the wheels in motion for some fine collaboration.
I want you to have confidence when baking this tart. As long as you have a few basic flavours you can vary this to your heart’s content. It’s a very hard recipe to stuff up.
1 and 1/2 sheets of frozen ready-rolled shortcrust pastry, 1/2 a small red salad onion, 1 large red capsicum (bell pepper or sweet pepper), 6 to 8 large fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup of grated tasty cheese, 1/2 cup of feta cheese, 1/3 cup of marinated baby figs or a similar preserved sweet/savoury fruit such as Italian Mustard Fruits ( Mostarda di frutta), 3 eggs, 3 tablespoons of cream, cracked black pepper.
*Hint – If you can’t source any preserved fruits, take some dried figs, prunes, apricots or pears, cut into small pieces and soak in a little boiling water with a dash of port, rum, brandy or other sweet spirit and a little fresh herb or cinnamon until soft and syrupy. You could also substitute onion jam or a good chutney to same effect. Just dollop little bits around your tart.
Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). Find a suitable tin to bake your Tart. I used a 36cm x 12 cm (14 inch x 5 inch) non-stick rectangular quiche tin with removable base, but you could use any small spring form or quiche dish. A removable base makes removing the tart easier, but it will still work in a conventional pie tin. Just grease it well!
*Hint – If you’re in a hurry you can use a pre-baked savoury pastry case.
Slice your capsicums in half and place under a very hot grill. (Alternatively, place on hot barbeque or use tongs and hold over a gas flame.) Allow the skin to blacken and char. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then slide your thumbnail up under the skin and peel it away. Discard the skins, seeds and membrane, and slice thinly. This sweetens the capsicums and gives them a slight smoky flavour.
Now take your partially defrosted pastry. Don’t let it get too warm or it becomes difficult to handle. Grease your tin, and then lay the pastry into it, pressing an overlap of about a centimetre (half inch) at any joins.
Use a sharp knife to trim away any overhanging pastry, and neaten the edges with your fingers. Then use the tines of a fork to make some small pricks in the pastry. This helps steam escape so that the pastry stays flat while cooking.
We’re going to start by baking the tart case blind. Baking blind means we line the raw pastry with some baking paper and pour in some rice, beans or other pastry weights before we put it into the oven. This helps ensure crisp flat pastry for our finished tart.
Bake for ten minutes, then remove. Carefully take the paper and weights away and then return the shell to the oven for another ten minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Now layer some red capsicum into the bottom of the tart, giving a good even coverage. Tear your basil leaves and arrange them over the top. Add in some finely sliced red salad onion and scatter the tasty cheese.
Cut the figs or other marinated/syrup fruits into small pieces. Sprinkle them over the vegetables so that you have an even coverage. Their sweet and savoury flavour really enhances the cheese and capsicums.
Crumble your feta cheese over the tart, using your fingers. Don’t worry if the filling sits a little higher than the pastry. Now beat two of the eggs gently with two tablespoons of cream until well combined. Pour slowly into your tart shell, making sure the mixture fills to the sides and edges but does not come up over the top of the pastry. If you need a little more, use the last egg and cream. Use your finger or a fork to poke the vegetables so that the egg mix goes right to the bottom. Crack some black pepper over the top and then carefully place into the oven.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until firm and golden on top. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before taking out of the tin. Serve with a salad and some good bread.
Here’s a picture of the interior of the tart. I can vouch for the fact that it was delicious!