Not long ago I went to lunch with a friend in a French style restaurant near to home in Derbyshire. We both chose the same thing from the menu – a nice slice of summer vegetable tart which had in it green beans, peas and broccoli. It also had some caramelised onion on the bottom, which gave a lovely slightly sweet taste and made a nice change from the usual very savoury flavour of fried onions.
So I decided to have a go at something similar myself.
I used a pack of ready-made shortcrust pastry and a selection of fresh summer vegetables. I had some peas and broccoli and used broad beans from my garden instead of the green beans in the restaurant quiche. I don’t like the fine green beans sold in our local supermarkets, partly because I have in the past found them tough and lacking in flavour, but mainly because I just don’t like the idea of buying beans flown half way round the world to our shops.
I blind baked the pastry case and then smeared a couple of dessertspoons of caramelised onion chutney over the bottom and arranged the vegetables on top. I didn’t know whether I should part cook them first but I decided not to and they cooked fine.
I wasn’t sure if there was any cheese in the restaurant tart, probably not, but I decided to add a couple of dessertspoons of grated parmesan cheese to the egg mixture. The kind of ready grated parmesan-esque hard cheese that everyone says is rubbish but which I really like. We often buy ready grated parmesan which comes in little re-sealable bags in French supermarkets, as it seems to be more flavourful and less dry than the tubs I have previously bought in England, and also seems to stay fresh for a long time.
I baked it for about 30 minutes and it was delicious. I thought the next time I would cut the broccoli florets into smaller pieces but otherwise it was a nice alternative to my usual “Quiche Lorraine” style of tart.
A couple of weeks later, whilst “chez nous” in France, I decided to make individual versions of the tart as a starter. My friend Nicole suggested using a muffin tin rather than the mini loose-bottomed tart tins that you can get specially for the purpose. I think she was right as they were quite a bit deeper so room for more filling and less likelihood of the egg mixture boiling over. She also suggested using puff pastry instead of shortcrust as she found it turns out more easily and holds its shape better – less chance of bits of pastry breaking off in the struggle to get the tarts out of the muffin tin!
I used an old Bon Maman jar to make circles the right size for the muffin pan. I had taken a jar of onion chutney with me from the UK but you can buy similar - “confiture d’échalote” - quite easily in France. I also used some lovely French green beans –” haricot verts” but I decided to cook them briefly for a couple of minutes, thinking that the small tarts might cook a bit quicker in the oven and I didn’t want them to be too chewy. Because I was using puff pastry I decided not to bake it blind before adding the filling.
They looked wonderful, in a rustic kind of way, and tasted good too. They made a lovely starter, with a few salad leaves and a cherry tomato on the plate.
SUMMER VEGETABLE TART (OR TARTLETS)
1 pack of ready made or ready rolled shortcrust pastry*
A handful each of shelled broad beans, peas, also green beans and broccoli florets cut into small pieces.
125 ml whole milk
125 ml cream
2 dessertspoons of grated parmesan cheese
1-2 dessertspoons of caramelised onion chutney (sometimes also called marmalade)
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 23cm flan tin and roll out the pastry to fit. Prick the base of the pastry case, add a circle of baking parchment and baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes*.
Remove the paper and beans and reduce the oven temperature to 160°C.
Smear the onion chutney on the base of the pastry case. A very thin layer will give a good flavour so don’t overdo it – a little goes a long way.
Pile the vegetables into the pastry case.
Beat the eggs with the cream and milk. Add the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and pour the mixture carefully over the vegetables. Don’t fill to the top of the pastry case or it will boil over and brown too much around the edge.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm but also very nice served cold.
*For the tartlets, use puff pastry, “pâte feuilletée” and don’t bake blind before adding the vegetables. They will cook slightly quicker – check after 20 minutes at 160ºC. A pack of ready-rolled pastry and the above quantity of egg mixture would probably make 8-10 tartlets.