So, pastry. Pastry on a hot day, when you're in a fragile mood yourself. It can be done. Witness this tomato tart, where the pastry is short and delectable in the mouth, framing summer's best bounty of home-grown tomatoes (mine and dad's). Don't even attempt to make this with cardboard-bland supermarket tomatoes. You need a big tomato, pleasingly soft when squeezed, that you can cut into thick, thick slices. Real tomatoes with flavour that explodes in your mouth, mellow and sweet and triumphant (if you don't think a tomato can be triumphant, you haven't met the right tomato).
If cooking and eating is about pleasure at the moment, then this tomato tart continues the trip. Because when it works, rhythmically kneading and rolling out pastry beneath your hands is calming and zen. I've read about walking meditation; I'm proposing pastry-making meditation.
Making a stained-glass window with those generous tomato slices - which will collapse pleasingly as they cook - is not to be rushed; you need to admire the beauty of what is and what's to come.
The final delicious assault on your senses will be the addition of summer basil, chives, oregano and garlic, chopped and doused with grassy olive oil. You fairly annoint the tomatoes with this heady mix; their aroma wafting from the oven is a real tease.
On an entirely practical level, this is a fidgety kind of recipe with lots of stages and timings and temperature switches. But please don't let the nuts and bolts get in the way of trying this tomato tart. It is truly summer on a plate, showcasing magnificent flavours and your patience and skills. Quite simply, you must try this.
Based on Martha Stewart's Tomato pie. While it's delicious eaten cold, the tomatoes will sog the pastry down if left too long, so if that kind of thing bothers you, eat it immediately.
- First, the pastry. In a food processor combine 1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour, 3/4 cups white plain flour, 1/2 tspn salt, 1/2 tspn sugar and 110 gms cold butter. Whiz up til it becomes crumb-like, then add enough cold water til it comes together.
- Take out and knead on a floured surface until smooth, then roll out til it fits your chosen pie dish. I used a loose-bottom rectangular one measuring 11 x 34 cms, which I lined with baking paper (just to make sure it would come out okay). Trim the pastry if you have too much overhang or you like neat edges.
- Once the pastry is fitted in your dish, line it with another sheet of pastry and add some baking weights. Put this in the fridge for half an hour or so.
- At the end of the chilling time, preheat your oven to 200.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge, remove the baking weights and paper, prick the base with a fork.
- Slice up three or four tomatoes (depending on their girth) at least 1 cm thick. Arrange them in the pastry, nice and tight but not overlapping (though really, I'm sure it wouldn't matter too much if they did). Drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Reduce the temperature to 180 and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop a few leaves of fresh basil, a small bunch of chives, the leaves off a branch or two of oregano, and a clove or two of garlic. I'm not going to give you specifics (check Martha if you want) - I probably ended up with a generous tablespoon of herbs. Mix in a small bowl with some olive oil, just enough to cover.
- At the end of that 10 minutes, remove the tart and dribble your herb and oil mix over the tomatoes. Pop the tart back into the oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until the pastry's golden brown (and that herby smell is driving you insane).
- Remove from oven, remove from your tin and enjoy hot, warm, or later, cold.