Tomato tart with thyme, olives and honey
We have a very roomy balcony that, at various stages, has produced a small to mediocre number of edible delights. I have great intentions and visions of the bountiful beauty it could be but, at this moment, even watering it can be a chore.
Our intermittent gardening enthusiasm means that currently we have a glorious curry leaf tree that produces wildly, a lone Meyer lemon on a baby plant, a very old and small bay tree, which despite years of struggling seems to have come back from the dead, and a tiny supermarket pot of thyme. The thyme is awaiting planting in a bigger patch but, despite being neglected, it somehow still flourishes. There are also three lettuces we should have eaten last month that have now bolted and are looking excellently alien-like at about a metre high.
Among all of this were three spindly cherry tomato plants that grew unaided in an old enamel bathtub and produced a surprising amount of fruit that had to be eaten. And so, here we have a tomato tart.One of the main features of a tart is, of course, the pastry. Making your own is admirable but it’s not a task to be taken lightly. I was at dinner at a friend’s house recently and she made a caramelised onion and anchovy number with her own pastry, and it was delicate and flaky and perfect. Clever. So, please, if you have the will, make your own as it is worth it. But it does take time and effort and there is no shame in buying the pastry.
And now here we are, armed with tomatoes and herbs from the balcony and a rectangular sheet of pastry bought from the shops.
The flavour combinations on this tart are classically perfect and an ode to summer. You have the joy of slow-cooked garlic with tomatoes, olives for a salty punch, a herbaceous oiliness, a hint of sweet honey, creamy ricotta for relief and a healthy turn of black pepper. Held up by a firm base of buttery pastry.
There is a silly amount of oil needed to cook this. However, it can be reused and makes for an excellent salad dressing base. Or perhaps you’ll like the tart so much you will immediately want to make it again. Use the same oil and the next batch of balcony tomatoes that ripen.
Time: 45 minutes total if done concurrently (pastry takes 35-40 minutes)
- shortcrust pastry, rolled into a thin 27cm round
- 1 egg, whisked
- 300ml robust olive oil
- 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and kept whole
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 100g kalamata olives, pitted and torn in half
- 400g cherry tomatoes, washed and kept whole
- 120g ricotta
- zest of 1 lemon
- black pepper and salt flakes
- a spoonful of honey
- Manoeuvre your pastry into a nice, thin round sitting on a sheet of silicone or baking paper on a baking tray. Use a pastry brush to delicately brush the merest hint of egg around the circumference, about half a centimetre in from the edge. Use your fingertips to roll in the edges all the way around to create a rim, doing two nice turns. Use a fork to dock (prick) the base of the pastry round and then lay a sheet of baking paper over it. Add some sort of pastry weight (rice or beans) to cover the base so you can blind bake it, making sure to lay it inside the border.
- Place the round into a preheated fan-forced oven at 180°C and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the blind baking weights, drop the oven temperature to 160°C and continue cooking until it’s a darkish golden brown (another 15-20 minutes, checking at intervals). Remove the pastry from the oven, give all of it a brush with the egg, cook for a further minute and then remove and set aside to cool, leaving it on the baking tray.
- Meanwhile, pour your olive oil into a wide-based saucepan or frypan with high sides and add in the garlic cloves, thyme and bay leaves. Place over a medium heat until the garlic starts to sizzle (about 30 seconds) and then turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, letting the garlic gently cook until it softens and starts to colour (almost half an hour). The cloves should be mostly submerged but you may need to jiggle them occasionally.
- Add in the olives and tomatoes, bring the oil up to a simmer again, season generously, and then place the pan in your oven at 160°C. Cook until the tomatoes just start to give way, about 12 minutes. They may need a gentle stir and check at the midway point. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Once cooled, gently transfer the tomato mix to a sieve over a bowl to drain the excess oil and then discard the herbs. (At this stage, the oil can be strained and kept for later.)
- To make the ricotta cream, blend or blitz the ricotta with the zest until it is smooth and creamy. A stick bender is useful for this. This can be kept in the fridge until you are ready.
- To construct your tart, spread the ricotta cream onto the base of the cooled pastry and then use a spoon to top with the tomato mix. The ricotta cream may overflow a little but don’t panic, it’s going to be a bit messy.
- Drizzle with a generous spoon of honey and then place the tart into a fan-forced oven preheated to 220°C for five minutes.
- Remove, allow to cool a little and then serve.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 18, 2023 as "Pomodoro method".
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