Sunday, April 03, 2016

A very full vegetable tart

March 20, 2016

I've clearly been dominating the dessert division at our Ottolenghi get-togethers, because I felt a teensy bit flummoxed at the prospect of making a main. I lounged around with Plenty and Plenty More and some little ripped bookmarks, looking out for picnic-friendly autumn-appropriate dishes. I had plenty of time to plan and shop and cook. Michael nudged me into making the Very Full Tart - it looked like a ripper centrepiece and unlikely to be any the worse for being served at air temperature.

Ottolenghi recipes are notoriously effortful, and this is the rare one where you can actually bring extra work upon yourself. In Plenty, the recipe simply demands that you procure 300g of shortcrust pastry. Welp, I made my own. With a food processor on hand it's not too much of a drag, and I called on this ol' pumpkin tart recipe for (butter-heavy) quantities.

From there it was a long, slow procession of chopping and roasting vegetables - capsicums in two colours, eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini and onions. Layered up in the tart crust, they're topped with feta, ricotta and cherry tomatoes; thyme, too, if you can remember it. (Not me.) It's all bound together with eggs and cream. Though 45 minutes is theoretically enough to set the eggs, I found that the vegetables (especially the tomatoes) gave off extra juices and the tart was very bubbly.

Cooled down and cut up in the park, it wasn't as quiche-y as I expected. True to its name, vegetables tumbled all over, coated in a creamy gravy and not a set custard. Everything felt on the brink of collapse, yet each vegetable and cheese chunk held its own, and their pastry casing stayed crisp. If you're not self-consciously saving a piece for photos, it's a dish you can make a wild mess of, safe in the knowledge that it'll still taste great.

A very full vegetable tart
(slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty)

1 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
120g butter
3 tablespoons iced water

1 red capsicum
1 yellow/orange capsicum
~100mL olive oil
1 medium eggplant
1 small sweet potato
1 small zucchini
2 medium onions
2 bay leaves
120g ricotta
120g feta
2 eggs
200mL double cream
7 cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 180°C.

Place the flour and salt in a food processor. Roughly dice the butter and drop it in too. Blend the mixture together until the butter is thoroughly mixed through. With the motor still running, slowly pour the water in one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together as a dough (you might not need all of the water).

Turn the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place another large piece of wrap on top. Roll the pastry out to fit a pie dish. Put the top wrap off and ease the pastry into the dish; remove the second piece of wrap and trim the pastry to fit the dish. Dot the base of the crust with holes using a fork. Line the crust with baking paper and dried legumes, or another pie weight of your choice. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then remove the pie weights and bake the crust for a further 10 minutes. Allow the crust to cool.

Turn the oven up to 220°C.

Use a small knife to remove the stalks from the capsicums, and any membranes you can reach. Shake out any seeds still inside the capsicums. Place the capsicums on a small baking tray, drizzle them with a little of the olive oil, and bake them on the top shelf of the oven.

Dice the eggplant into 3cm cubes and place it all into a large baking tray. Stir through about 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Bake the eggplant for 12 minutes. Peel the sweet potato, dice it into 2cm cubes, and add it to the eggplant when it's done. Bake them together for a further 12 minutes. Halve the zucchini lengthways and slice it into 3cm lengths. Add it to the eggplant and sweet potato pieces when they're done, and roast all three vegetables together for a final 12 minutes.

By now the capsicums should have collapsed with brown skins. Retrieve them from the oven and cover them with foil to steam as they cool. Allow the other roasted vegetables to cool as well. 

Turn the oven down to 160°C.

Thinly slice the onions. Saute them with the bay leaves in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over low heat. Stir them regularly, cooking until they're caramelised, around 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard the bay leaves.

Remove the foil from the capsicum dish and peel off their skins. Dice the roasted capsicums.

Spread the caramelised onions over the pie crust. Spoon in all of the roasted eggplant, sweet potato, zucchini and capsicums. Dice the ricotta and feta and arrange these over the roasted vegetables. Whisk together the eggs and cream with some salt and pepper, and gently pour them into the tart. Halve the cherry tomatoes and arrange them cut-side-up over the tart. Bake the tart for up 35-45 minutes, until golden and set. All it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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