Wales is well known for its high rain fall, so whenever we are blessed with a little window of sunshine we take the opportunity to soak up every last ray. That means we have been eating an awful lot of dinners on the patio (now that it’s finished) and doing much more al fresco entertaining. The experience is even better in the knowledge that much of the food on our plate is there growing around us and all we have to do is nip to the bottom of the garden to pull a few lettuce and rocket leaves for our salad, or to the hen-house to collect a few eggs for a tart. I don’t know about you? but I think free food tastes so much better!
So at the tail end of the half term holidays I ended up with a couple of visiting (vegetarian) teenagers, the little one, and us (and no money left having been eaten out of house and home). I needed to use as many of these free resources as possible. A Ottolenghi inspired tart / Quiche/ call it what you will (I called it a vegetable ‘pie’ because the teen doesn’t like Quiche!!) with a couple of hearty salads did the trick!
“Did you like it”? I inquired at the end of the meal…I noticed that the teenagers had all pushed their vegetables to the side of the plate, eating just the pastry and filling…
“It was nice, but I’m not keen on vegetables said Erin. I do like the pastry bit of Quiche though” she said with a smile.
“I thought you were vegetarian?” I asked
“I am” she replied bluntly.
My teen glared at me “Was that Quiche then?” she frowned. “You told me it was pie and you know I hate Quiche. Why do you always try to trick me?” .
I looked at her plate, she’d eaten the same amount as her friend. Once again her teenager logic left me lost for words.
A very full, Ottolenghi inspired pie (tart in disguise!!):
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, 1 eggplant (aubergine), couple of small courgettes, 2 red onions, 2 bay leaves, a hand full of thyme sprigs, leaves picked from them, a handful of washed shredded spinach, chard or even kale whatever if ready to harvest, 150g ricotta and 120g feta cheese, a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved, 3 medium to large eggs, 200ml double cream, salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees (gas mark 8). Chop peppers into 4 removing the stalk and seeds and chop the eggplant into largish chucks. Place in a roasting tin and toss in a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the chopped and washed courgettes to the tin and toss in the oil and return to the tin to the oven. Cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the peppers are beginning to turn brown/blackish in places. Remove from the oven and allow peppers to cool a little before removing the skin and tearing into strips.
While the vegetables are roasting finely chop the onion and cook with the bay leaves and a pinch of salt on a medium heat, in a couple of tablespoons olive oil for about 20 minutes until turning soft and just golden brown. Set to one side.
Turn the oven down to 180 degress (gas mark 4). Line a 22-24cm loose bottomed greased tart tin with pastry (shortcrust pastry recipe below) so it just hangs over the rim, then line with baking paper / parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 30 minutes after about 20 minutes remove the paper and let it bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes until just turning golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Spread the base with cooked onion, roasted vegetables, herbs, shredded spinach and then scatter the cheeses and tomato halves on top. Whisk the eggs and cream together and add some salt and pepper. Pour carefully into the tart case adding a last sprinkle of thyme and then bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until cooked through and golden on top. Leave it to rest for a 10 minutes before removing from the tart tin and serving. I added a small handful of torn basil leaves to finish.
*Basic shortcrust pastry: The rule of thumb is equal parts flour to fat….so for this I used 200g Shipton Mill plain flour, a good pinch of Halen Mon sea salt, 100g Rachel’s dairy butter, 100g lard and enough cold water to bind into a dough.
Rub the fat into the flour and salt, then gradually add cold water a little at a time until the pastry just comes together into a ball. Do not over work the pastry as it will become dense. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before using.