A crispy bed of light layers of buttery Puff Pastry, a mixture of sun-dried and fresh, multi-coloured Tomatoes, slowly caramelised sweet Red Onions, Gruyere Cheese and freshly chopped tangy Basil and Thyme from my garden all came together to give us a fabulous Tomato Tart treat. Topped with Wild Rocket, mixed with a smidgeon of freshly seasoned fruity, extra virgin olive oil. What a tart – Tomato Tart that is … it was heaven.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make this tart with my own Tomatoes – a bit too early for mine in East Yorkshire, and if the sun doesn’t shine soon across this soggy country my Tomato harvest may be just about ripening in November!!
A few weeks ago I was asked by Designer son, Anthony, to provide a ‘light lunch’ for him and his family (wife and my Twin grandaughters, 10 months old now). Visits from Anthony are very rare at the moment, as he is incredibly busy workwise. Amongst other things, he is in the final throes of perfecting every conceivable aspect of 2 Michelin-star Chef, Sat Bains’s substantial cookbook, out in a month or two, so to see him in person was going to be a treat.
I scoured the Internet for a Tomato Tart recipe that appealed to me. So many use Goats Cheese, which I love, but find its strong flavour overwhelms Tomatoes. Then I chanced across a wonderful character, Chef Martin Picard, from “Au Pied de Cochon” in Montreal, and “Cabane a Sucre au Pied de Cochon”, outside Montreal, Canada. The write-up appealed to me. It said “What He’s Known For: Cheeky renditions of classic Quebecois dishes like foie gras poutine; encouraging communal feasting with elaborate, hearty dishes.” He sounded fun, so I read further, and found out that he is quite controversial, very proud of his roots, cooks some … shall we say … unusual food, and is a larger than life character. Well, I certainly liked the sound of his Tomato Tart and thought I would give it a go.
Martin Picard used Sun-dried Tomatoes for his Tart recipe, but (apologies to Martin) I decided to mix it up a bit, and used both Sun-dried and a mixture of Yellow and Red Cherry Tomatoes and 2 or 3 lovely ripe Medium Tomatoes, marinaded them with my fresh Basil, Garlic and oil and seasonings. It smelt so fresh and summery.
Apparently Martin Picard feels that when he makes the Tart using just sun-dried tomatoes, which he says don’t have much liquid with them, he uses a home-made Bechamel sauce as his base on the part-cooked pastry. But when he uses fresh tomatoes, with all their juices, he uses a mixture of Dijon mustard and double cream, to prevent the pastry base from becoming too soggy, so I decided to take his advice.
Chef Martin makes his Puff Pastry from scratch. Apologies – I bought mine from Waitrose, a big square slab of Butter Puff Pastry, to make one big Tomato Tart. But individual tarts are a great idea. I had all my ingredients ready, then unfortunately I received a call from Anthony, cancelling the visit due to work commitments. Was I disappointed? Of course. But then I was asked to take his place, and go with Amelia and the Twins to their friend’s Birthday Party at a Soft-Play Centre!
This was a first for me – I was a ‘Soft-Play Virgin’. At my age! What to expect? I was almost nervous, stupidly. But what a time I had, apart from being told off (nicely) because I didn’t realise you had to wear socks (stupid me!) One pound bought me a nice white pair of summer socks, and I was legal again – able to venture into the inner sanctum of baby soft-play heaven. How squashy, what absolute fun, playing with the Twins and their Mum, and all the little children who wanted to lift up the Twins, and play with them. To see our little girls clapping, and wriggling with absolute pleasure was something precious to behold.
I had such a good time, and I came away from that lovely experience thinking that it would be great to have Soft-Play for Adults. Nothing hard to leave bruises, just squashy toys and play. There’s something about rolling around on your tummy on lovely squashy cushions that appeals to all ages. Well, me anyway.
So, back to our Tomato Tart. I decided that it would be lovely to cook for Erik and myself for the next night’s meal. So that it what I did, and it was stunning. It also gave us our lunch for the next day.
Before I went hunting for a Tomato Tart recipe, I confess I had never heard of Chef Martin Picard. But curiosity got the better of me, so I wasted some time doing a little ‘foodie’ research. What a character! To see his book, ‘Au Pied de Cochon: The Album’, written with the brilliant Anthony Bourdain, click here. I believe a new book from Martin Picard, ‘Sugar Shack: An Album from the Celebrated Au Pied de Cochon’ will be here soon, and can also be ordered from Amazon – click here.
For a link to Martin Picard’s restaurant “Au Pied de Cochon”, in Montreal, please click here.
Well here is the full recipe of “What a Tart! Tomato Tart that is … ” and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as Erik and I did.
(This Tomato Tart recipe is taken from the wonderful recipe from Canadian Chef, Martin Picard, but with apologies for altering it slightly. To help your Puff Pastry to rise well, Martin recommends part-baking the pastry, letting it cool for a bit, before adding the topping and giving the Tart another 10 minutes. This certainly worked for my Tart.)
- For either one large rectangular Tart or 6 Individual Tarts:
- Puff Pastry with Butter - a square slab approx. 380 gms - defrosted or taken out of the fridge 10/15 mins before rolling out.
- (Flour to roll out Pastry)
- 2 Red Onions, sliced very fine
- 1 tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tsp caster sugar
- 150 gm yellow and red cherry Tomatoes, halved
- 3 ripe medium to large red Tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 4/5 sun-dried Tomatoes in oil, cut into bite-sized chunks
- Good sprinkling of shredded Basil leaves
- 4 - 6 sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 1 clove of Garlic, chopped finely
- 1 tsp Sherry Vinegar
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Double Cream, lightly whipped
- 3 - 4 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese
- Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
- Toss all the tomatoes, sliced if necessary, with the basil, garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, Sherry vinegar, seasoning, in a bowl, and mix well. Leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes, longer if possible. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Preheat oven to 200 C (400F). If using AGA, place grid shelf on floor of top right oven.
- Place a large sauté or frying pan on a medium heat (the right hand simmering plate on the AGA). Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add onions, Thyme, salt and 1 tsb sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn golden, not black. Turn heat lower if onions are catching too much. They need approx. 15 – 20 minutes to caramelise. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Whilst the onions are cooking, roll out the Puff Pastry reasonably thinly (it will rise), and if making one large Tart, brush large baking sheet very lightly with oil, and place pastry on it. If making individual Tarts, cut into neat squares, and put on greased baking sheet. Using a fork, prick pastry all over BUT leave a good one centimetre (1/2 inch) border unpricked all the way around the edge. Bake for approx. 10 minutes until the bottom of the pastry is puffed up and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool.
- Keep gently stirring the onions from time to time.
- Whip the double-cream lightly, just until it stops being too runny. Mix well with the Dijon mustard. I like to add a good twist of freshly ground Black Pepper. When the pastry is slightly cool, return it to the baking tray, spread the mustard-cream sauce gently over the top lightly, leaving the border untouched. Scatter half of the grated Gruyere cheese over the sauce, and top with the caramelised onions. Scatter the remaining cheese and tomatoes over the top, and sprinkle the tomatoes with the 2 tsb sugar, to caramelise the edges.
- Return the baking tray to the oven (the same heat as before) and bake until the cheese melts and browns in little spots, and the tomatoes look gently singed, which takes about 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and leave for a couple of minutes, then slice the Tomato Tart up into pieces.
I was thrilled with this Tomato Tart recipe - it tasted even better than I had hoped for. We ate it with Wild Rocket (add Watercress as well if you like) – I drizzled a tablespoonful of good olive oil in a bowl, seasoned it well, then just before serving added the Wild Rocket to the oil, swirled it around quickly then put a portion on to the top of the Tomato Tart. It tasted brilliant.