Saturday, March 08, 2008

Romancing the Love Apple

I'd like to think that the apple with which Eve tempted Adam was the love apple or pomme d'amour, better known as the tomato. So much lovelier and more seductive than a Granny Smith or Gala. However, unless the Garden of Eden was in Central America, there wouldn't have been any tomatoes around. Luckily, we can get really tasty tomatoes here, grown on the slopes of Mount Kinabalu, and we must consume about 1 1/2 kilos per week.

Last night, I made one of my favourite tarts, one which doesn't contain cream so it's not quite as cholesterol-laden as your average quiche. When the French "haven't a thing in the kitchen", they claim airily "on peut toujours faire une tarte". Well, maybe you can always whip up a tart easily if you live in France or Australia or somewhere else that sells ready-made short crust pastry, all rolled out and ready to simply push into a tart pan before filling. Here in the wilds of Borneo (ok, slight exaggeration), I always make my own pastry. For savoury tarts, I really like a mixture of oats and flour; it gives a better texture and more flavour to the pastry crust. As for my favourite filling (based on a Provencal recipe), just try it and you'll see why we love these tarts so much.


125 g oatmeal
125 g plain flour
generous pinch of salt
125 g chilled butter, diced
water as needed
6 small tomatoes (60-80 g each)
6 heaped tablespoons best French mustard
125 g gruyere or cheddar cheese, grated
fresh or dried thyme, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil

Put the oatmeal in a food processor and pulse a few times to break it up a bit. Add the flour, salt and butter and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add 2-3 tablespoons iced water and pulse until it forms a ball. Pop in a plastic bag, chill about an hour in the fridge, let it come to room temperature then roll it out. Line 6 small tart tins (preferably with a removable base) with the pastry. You can let them sit at room temperature (even in the tropics), lightly covered, for at least an hour.

Heat the oven to 200C. Cut each tomato in quarters and squeeze lightly to press out the juice. Sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to draw out more juice, otherwise the pastry will be soggy. When the tomatoes are well drained, spread a heaped tablespoon of mustard on the bottom of each pastry base. Add 1/6th of the cheese, then top with 4 tomato quarters. Sprinkle with herbs, pepper and a good dribble of olive oil, then bake at 200C for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to about 180C and continue cooking until the tarts are done, about another 30 minutes. Serve hot or warm. Mon capitaine thinks they're even better cold.

1 comment:

Balvinder Kaur said...

I hereby confirm these were yummy, light and flavourful. Can't wait to try them myself.