Produce gluts are now upon us. For all the home gardeners out there, this is the time of year that tomatoes and zucchinis become slightly problematic – there are just so many of them. Whereas tomato growing is not guaranteed to be full of joy – some years they boom, some years they bust – it seems that zucchinis always flourish, for everyone.
For years I have been making an easy version of a tomato tart. Inspired by my friend Kate Hill, who lives and works in Gascony, in south-western France, it is a simple “bande” tart and is made with shortcrust pastry, so it is quite flaky. The tart’s simplicity is beguiling: there’s the hint of heat from a smear of Dijon mustard, the sweetness of beautiful tomatoes, the sharpness of the cheese and the crunch of the pastry. This year I have changed it up a bit. Faced with an even bigger crop of zucchinis than usual, I use a mandolin to slice the fruit very finely, then tear some flowers over the top with a bit of parsley (basil would also be lovely). The result is a tart that is every bit as delicious as the tomato version, with the bonus that it uses a lot of zucchinis.
A little note about the pastry. It is very easy to make it, especially if you are using a mixer. The trick to it is not to over mix the butter into the flour. If the butter is left as raggedy smears through the flour before the liquids are added, it will result in a flakier pastry when rolled out. When you do roll it out, there should be visible streaks of butter.
For those who are a little nervous of making pastry, this is a great one to start with. The addition of the whole egg makes it an easy pastry to work with. The protein and water content of the egg white helps to better bind the ingredients, but also creates more steam in the baking process which, in conjunction with the smears of butter, creates the wonderful flake of this crust.
Side by side these tarts are a great pair, especially delicious with a crisp green salad on a late summer’s night.
125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
210g plain flour
25ml cold water
I make this pastry two ways, either on the benchtop by hand or in a stand mixer. Bench top: chop the butter through the flour and salt in a pile on the bench (a metal pastry scraper works best). Mix the egg into the water. Make a well in the centre, then add the egg and water and bring together carefully into a dough. Stand mixer: Place the butter, flour and salt in the bowl. Fit with the paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is smeared throughout the flour. You don’t want it mixed too thoroughly – there should still be visible butter. Mix the egg and the water together, then add to the butter and flour and mix until the dough comes together.
Refrigerate the pastry for 20 minutes or so.
60g Dijon mustard
500g-1kg heirloom tomatoes of different shapes and colours, thinly sliced, or zucchini, thinly sliced
flaked salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g goat’s or ewe’s cheese (hard or soft, whichever you prefer)
a little olive oil
Preheat the oven to 210°C . Line a 40cm x 32cm baking tray with baking paper.
Divide the pastry in half and roll out into two 40cm x 20cm rectangles. Lift carefully onto the tray and roll the edges over to make a pretty border.
Lightly spread the mustard on each pastry rectangle, then cover with an overlapping pattern of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, then crumble or slice the goat’s cheese sparingly over the top. Sprinkle with a little oil. Repeat the process on the other pastry rectangle with thinly sliced zucchini.
Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove, then slide carefully onto a wire rack to cool slightly.
Place on a platter to serve at the table or slice and plate individually. This is best cut with a sharp serrated knife.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 27, 2021 as "Fleshy pleasures".
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