I made this tart for the first time at 3 am one morning when I was living in London. It was a very strange time in my life. I was fed up with the city and wanted to return to India, yet I was not sure if that was the best decision professionally. In those days, I just could not sleep, and every night I ended up in the kitchen, cooking recipes from silly magazines or newspapers till I was ready to fall asleep from sheer exhaustion. One night, I decided to make a savoury tart because I was not very good at rolling out short-crust pastry, and with so many hours to go before daybreak, it was the perfect time to practise. It took four tarts and most of the night, but by 6 am, I had got it right. People get very nervous when a recipe calls for a tart shell. Actually, it is quite easy once you get the hang of it. In fact, in French households, tarts and quiches are an everyday affair and are not considered “special occasion” meals. The best part is you can partially bake the shell and store it in a dry place for a couple of weeks. I think this beautiful, luscious, cheery-looking savoury tart lifts the mood of any table, and for some of us even works as a sleeping pill.
For The Pastry
- 120 gm regular refined flour
- 60 gm butter, chilled and cubed
- 3 tbsp chilled water
- Salt to taste
For The Filling
- 500 gm tomatoes, quartered lengthwise
- 75 gm soft goat cheese (or any sharp creamy cheese)
- 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 3 tbsp milk or cream
- 1 small onion, very finely chopped
- Salt to season
- Handful of mixed dry herbs
- Handful of rocket leaves
- Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and run it until the butter has rubbed into the flour completely. It should look like a crumbly mixture.
- With the motor running, gradually add water until the dough comes together. Add just enough water to bind it, no more.
- Remove the dough from the food processor, and knead it lightly on a clean surface for a minute or two.
- If you don’t have a food processor, cut the butter into the flour using a knife. Keep doing this until it looks fairly evenly blended, and then rub the butter into the flour using only your fingertips. Make sure you use a very light and gentle touch.
- Using a knife, stream in just enough water to bind the dough together. Form the dough into a ball, cling-wrap and chill.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius.
- In a bowl, mix cheese, milk, chopped onion and salt. This should resemble a thick paste. Set aside.
- Arrange the tomatoes on a foil-lined baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with mixed herbs and salt.
- Bake them for about 30 minutes, until the tomatoes soften.
- Meanwhile, roll out the dough between two sheets of cling wrap to form a round. It should be about two inches wider than the tart mould.
- Remove the top layer of cling wrap and carefully invert the dough in the mould. The bottom layer of cling wrap should now be on the top.
- With the plastic still in place, fit the dough firmly and evenly in the pan.
- Remove the layer of cling wrap and trim the edges. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Line the tart shell with a piece of wax paper or buttered aluminium foil, buttered side down, and then fill it with lentils.
- The weight of the lentils ensures that the pie retains its shape while baking and prevents it from bubbling up. This is called blind baking.
- After the crust has baked for 15 minutes, lift out the wax paper or foil along with the lentils. Now you have a partially baked tart.
- Bake again for another 15 minutes.
- Smother the bottom of the tart shell with the goat cheese mixture, and then layer with the baked tomatoes, before finally sprinkling the grated Parmesan.
- Put in the oven for another few minutes, until it gets warm.