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Rachel Allen: Delicious recipes for savoury summer tarts

Imagination is the only limitation when it comes to savoury tarts, says Rachel Allen, who has three wonderful recipes for you to try


Tomato and goat's cheese tart with pesto

Tomato and goat's cheese tart with pesto

Tomato and goat's cheese tart with pesto

One of the things I love about making a savoury tart is that it's almost a meal in one. Add a little green salad, and you have a perfectly delicious lunch or light supper. A tart also makes a wonderful alfresco lunch, and sliced up, most tarts are quite portable and delicious eaten cold as part of a picnic lunch, enjoyed in the sunshine.

Another thing I adore about a good tart is its fantastic versatility. There's hardly an ingredient that won't work well in a tart.Take the tomato and goat's cheese tart, right. The puff pastry base would be just as happy with a topping of sliced mushrooms, some rich, creamy Irish farmhouse cheese and a little chopped fresh thyme or sage. Or another time, you might fancy pieces of roasted aubergine with chopped olives and a crumbly feta-style cheese. Really, your imagination is the only limitation. You just need to know what will work with the puff pastry and what won't. Too much juice or moisture will give the tart a soggy base, and remember that if something takes more than half an hour to cook, such as potatoes, squash or pumpkin, then it's worth pre-cooking those ingredients before assembling the tart.

The two shortcrust pastry tart recipes here both have a delicious savoury custard filling. The basic ratio of 1 egg to 100ml of cream (or 4 eggs to 400ml cream to fill a deep 23cm tin) that I've gone with here ensures the custard will set when it is baked, and it works really well with lots of other flavours, provided there's not too much moisture. Feel free to replace the smoked salmon with smoked mackerel - or leave it out completely and swap in crispy bacon, chorizo pieces or even cubes of cooked potatoes. And if you have any tart filling left over, pour it into ramekins or tea cups and bake it for 15-20 minutes for a delicious and gluten-free savoury custard. Now that's handy.

Next week, I'll have some delicious recipes for sweet tarts.

Rachel recommends

To remove a tart from the tin, once it is baked and has been rested for five minutes, sit it on a bowl so that the sides of the tin fall down. Then place a palette knife under the tart to slide off the metal tin base and transfer the tart to a serving plate.

Rachel's top tip

To achieve light, puffed-up edges on your puff pastry tart, flip the pastry over onto its other side after you've trimmed it into shape.

French onion tart

Serves 6-8

For the shortcrust pastry, you will need:

225g plain flour, sifted

125g chilled butter, cubed

A pinch of sea salt

1 egg, beaten

For the filling, you will need:

25g butter

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

500g onions, sliced

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed or finely grated

4 sprigs fresh thyme, destalked and chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 eggs

400ml cream

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C, 375°F, Gas 4.

2 Follow the method for making, rolling, lining and blind-baking the pastry from the smoked salmon, tomato and herb tart recipe, left.

3 While the pastry is cooking, start on the filling. Place a pan on the heat and add the butter and the extra-virgin olive oil. Allow them to get warm, then add the sliced onions, the crushed or finely grated garlic, whichever you're using, and the chopped fresh thyme. Season with a little sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook over a low-to-medium heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the caramelised onion is very tender and golden in colour.

4 In a bowl, whisk the eggs and the cream together, and season with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the caramelised onion mixture from the pan over the base of the blind-baked pastry. Pour in the egg and cream mixture and bake the tart in the centre of the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until it is a light golden brown colour and just set in the centre.

5 Once the tart is baked, allow it to sit for five minutes to rest, then take it out of the tin - see Rachel Recommends, left - and serve it warm or at room temperature.

Tomato and goat's cheese tart with pesto

Serves 6

You will need:

400g tomatoes, sliced

1 red onion, peeled and cut through the root into 8 or 10 wedges

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A good pinch of caster sugar

500g puff pastry, rolled to a thickness of about 4mm

75g soft goat's cheese

For the pesto, you will need:

25g fresh basil leaves or fresh parsley leaves

10g cashews or pine kernels

1 small clove of garlic, crushed

50ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the top

Sea salt

10g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 Preheat the oven to 220°C, 425°F, Gas 7.

2 Put the tomato slices and the onion wedges in a bowl, then add the extra-virgin olive oil. Season with some sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a good pinch of caster sugar, and gently toss everything together.

3 Trim the rolled-out puff pastry into a 25cm-30cm rectangle, then flip it over onto its other side (see my Top Tip, above) and place it in a baking tray.

4 Arrange the seasoned tomato slices and red onion wedges on the pastry in neat rows - or haphazardly, if you prefer - leaving a 1cm border all the way round. Dot blobs of the goat's cheese at regular intervals on top of the tomato slices and onion wedges.

5 Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the tomatoes are cooked through and bubbling hot.

6 While the tart is baking, make the pesto (it could also be made in advance). Put the fresh basil leaves or the fresh parsley leaves, whichever you're using, into a food processor. Add the cashews or the pine kernels, whichever you're using, and the crushed garlic. Add a little of the extra-virgin olive oil and a good pinch of sea salt and blend well. Next, add the freshly grated Parmesan cheese and some more extra-virgin olive oil. Taste the pesto for seasoning, adding more sea salt if necessary. Pour the pesto into a jar, cover it with 1cm of extra-virgin olive oil and store it in the fridge. It'll keep for months.

7 Once the tart is fully baked, remove it from the oven, and drizzle it with the pesto. Serve immediately.

Smoked salmon, tomato and herb tart

Serves 8

For the shortcrust pastry, you will need:

225g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for flouring the work surface

125g chilled butter, cubed

A pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten

For the filling, you will need:

25g butter

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 eggs

400ml cream

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled

1 tablespoon chopped fennel, dill or chives

175g smoked salmon, cut into 1cm pieces

1 You will also need a 23cm-diameter loose-bottomed metal tart tin with 2cm-3cm-deep sides. If you're making the pastry in a food processor: put the sifted plain flour, the cubes of chilled butter and the pinch of salt in a food processor and whizz briefly until the mixture is in small lumps. Add half of the beaten egg and continue to whizz for another few seconds, or until the mixture looks as though it may just come together. (Prolonged processing will toughen the pastry, so don't whizz it up to the point where it forms a ball of dough). You might need to add a little more beaten egg, but don't add too much, as the mixture should be just moist enough to come together. If you're making the pastry by hand: in a bowl, rub the chilled cubes of butter into the sifted plain flour and the salt until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add some of the beaten egg, being careful not to add too much, and use your hands to bring the mixture together. Reserve any leftover beaten egg to use later.

2 Use your hands to flatten out the ball of dough until it is just 1cm-2cm thick, then wrap it in parchment paper and leave it to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

3 When you are ready to roll out the pastry, retrieve it from the fridge. Reserve the parchment paper for later, and place the chilled pastry on a floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry out to no more than a ½cm thickness, dusting the top and bottom of the pastry with flour as you go, and scraping underneath to make sure the pastry isn't sticking. Make sure to keep the pastry in a round shape, and large enough to line both the base and the sides of the tin.

4 Carefully place the rolled-out pastry on the rolling pin so that you can lift it and lower it into the tart tin. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin, and use your thumb to 'cut' the pastry along the edge of the tin for a neat finish. Prick the base of the tart with a fork, then chill the pastry in the fridge for another 30 minutes, or in the freezer for 10 minutes (it will keep for weeks like this in the freezer).

5 While the pastry is chilling, preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4.

6 Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge or freezer, and line it with the reserved baking parchment, leaving plenty to come up the sides. Fill the lined tart with baking beans or dried pulses (which can be reused repeatedly), then place it in the preheated oven and blind-bake it for 25-30 minutes or until the base of the tart feels almost dry. Remove it from the oven, and take out the baking beans and the parchment paper. Brush the base of the pastry with the leftover beaten egg you set aside earlier, then cook the tart in the oven for another three minutes, or until it is lightly golden and 'glazed' on the base (this will prevent the custard soaking into the pastry). Remove the blind-baked tart from the oven and set it aside.

7 To make the filling for the tart, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the finely chopped onion and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and sweat the onions over a gentle heat until they are completely softened but not browned - this should take about 8-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to allow the contents to cool.

8 In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the cream. Cut the peeled tomatoes into quarters and scrape out the juicy seeds, then chop the quarters. Add the cooked finely chopped onion you set aside earlier to the bowl, along with the chopped tomatoes, the chopped fennel, dill or chives, whichever you're using, and the smoked salmon pieces. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then carefully pour the filling into the blind-baked tart case you set aside earlier, making sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

9 Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake it for about 35 minutes or until it is golden on top and just set in the centre. Allow the tart to sit for five minutes before removing it from the tin, and serve it warm or at room temperature.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine