ONE thing to say for this weather is that we seem to be seeing bumper crops of fresh produce. My local farmers’ market has a stall selling only tomatoes. The variety in colour and flavour is exciting. Here, I combine different types in a Tomato and herb tart to showcase the produce. Importantly, assemble it shortly before serving, otherwise the juices could make the pastry soggy.
500g (1 lb 2 oz) puff pastry
1.3kg (3 lb) mixed, large tomatoes
1 bunch basil
olive oil, red wine vinegar
other herbs to taste (chives, sage, thyme)
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6. Roll the pastry out so that it can take six saucers laid out on top. Using the saucer, cut around six times to give pastry discs. Cut a border inside each one of about 1cm, or ½ inch, but gently, as you don’t want to pierce through to the other side. Place the discs on to a baking sheet, slide into the oven, and bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden brown. Set aside to cool.
With a sharp knife, slit a cross through the skin in the base of each tomato, place them in a bowl, and pour boiling water over the top. Leave for ten minutes or so.
Whizz the basil in a blender with 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 dessertspoon of vinegar. Blend in a small quantity of other herbs if desired, such as sage, parsley, thyme, or chives. Drain the tomatoes and peel off the skin from the cross at the base. Also cut out the stalk. Slice the tomatoes, lay them out flat, and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Assemble the tarts. Gently push the centre of each pastry down so that the border remains as an outer wall. Divide the herb mixture between each base, then layer the tomatoes on top. Finally, sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and scattered parsley, and serve at room temperature.
The strawberry season is enjoying a long run this year. Try them in this Strawberry mousse.
450g (1 lb) strawberries
8 mint leaves, finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
397g can condensed milk
3 egg whites
100g (4 oz) caster sugar
Place the washed and hulled strawberries in a saucepan with about 4 tablespoons water, and gently simmer until they begin to break down and the liquid is a vivid red. Set aside to cool. Purée or mash with a fork, then stir in the mint and lemon juice. Beat the condensed milk in a large bowl for a minute or two, and pour in the strawberry mixture, beating a little more to combine.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to firm peaks, add the sugar, and beat until stiff and glossy. Fold one spoonful of the egg whites into the strawberry cream, then the remainder. Pour into a serving bowl, and chill for at least two hours.