SO I wouldn’t usually be posting recipes and foodie stuff – it’s not really my specialty. While I’m not the most awful cook ever (I’ve lived away from home for four years and I’m not dead, am I?) I tend to avoid anything with proper rules and instructions, which generally rules out anything pastry-based. But I couldn’t help but post this little gem which I’ve learnt this week from my friend Ayesha and adapted a little – basically little veggie tartlets.
Ayesha’s an incredible chef and often has every mouth in the room watering (and burning) with her amazing Pakistani curries and treats, but this week she invited me for dinner and served up a delicious vegetarian tart. I asked her afterwards how she made the pastry, already expecting it to go right over my head, but it was so easy that I’ve been thinking about trying it myself all week.
So here we go. To make 8 little tarts like I did today (though depending on the size you cut the pastry it could be 10 or 6), you need:
- 110g butter (unsalted)
- 240g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- splash of water
- an egg, to glaze
- 2 cloves of garlic
- two sweet red peppers
- one large red onion OR two shallots
- Balsamic vinegar
- pinch of brown sugar
- crumbly goats cheese (or Feta if you prefer)
- rocket and a tomato to garnish
So, begin by putting the flour and butter into a big bowl and squashing it together with your bare hands until it looks like breadcrumbs. Oddly satisfying, actually, having cold butter squelch through your fingers. Remember to take off all jewellery first, of course.
Then add your pinch of salt. Salt can also be added to the topping so no need to go mad here. Same goes for water – continue to add little splashes until the dough is easy to knead and a little sticky but not like, well, very wet clay.
And NOW wrap in clingfilm and leave at room temperature for an hour or longer if you wish (I left it there while I went to the gym so I could feel deserving of the tarts when I got back).
After you’ve left it for a while ‘just to chill’ as Ayesha says, preheat the oven to 200 and rub a bit of flour around on the counter to roll out your dough. How thick you want to keep it is totally up to you. I like it quite thin, but if you’re all about the base (ha) then keep it a little thicker. Then you get your cookie cutter (or jam jar if you don’t have advanced baking equipment readily available, like me) and cut out your little bases.
For the sides which will hold all the lovely toppings in, roll out some thin sausages, place them around the sides and pinch with your fingers to make sure they’re secure.
Ok, now that the little pastry dishes are ready you can leave them aside and sort out the filling. What I did was chop up the garlic, peppers and onion and fry them lightly in oil until soft. Then, add in a little splash of vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar to give a sweet, caramelly effect, and let them simmer away until sticky.
In the meantime, give the pastry a little egg-glazing. Just before you take the vegetables off the heat, crumble in a little goat’s cheese so it melts throughout, and then spoon evenly out onto pastry cups.
Now for the easy part – fit them onto a baking tray covered with tinfoil and pop into the oven for 25 – 30 minutes. In this time you can busy yourself by watching Made in Chelsea at the kitchen table like me, or by doing something more productive if you wish. Why not have half a bottle of wine?
And then – voilà! Take them out of the oven and let them cool for 5 – 10 minutes. I served them with rocket and a little spritz of lemon juice, but when Ayesha served up her mushroom, cumin and pepper tart she served it with buttery potatoes – the ultimate comfort food. I also crumbled finely chopped tomato and a little extra goats cheese on top (worked REALLY hard in the gym for this) and I was away.
I’m actually quite smug about how pretty they are. I love aesthetically pleasing food. Who said it’s no fun to be veggie?
So – if you, like me are a bit hopeless in the kitchen but looking for something foolproof to wow Christmas guests, or just snack on yourself, give these little tarts a chance (I’ll probably never say that sentence ever again in my life). If you do, let me know how you get on!
Enjoy, and until next time!