Recently had guests over and wanted to make something simple, and “light”, something that would be delicious and would pair nicely with a fresh white wine, the temperatures here have been at 36°C and humid for days now, leading to a certain sluggishness in all undertakings. The fridge dictated what needed to be made, as so often. I found some ricotta and some peas still in their pod – so decided to make a ricotta and pea tarte – a thing of simplicity and beauty, if made well. I also wanted something a bit sharper – so having found a recipe for shallot and goats cheese tarte tatin which appealed to me I made that too. Even if I wanted to be modest I’d have to say that my photo of the finished dish is a lot better than the original on the BBC website, and I took mine with no special lighting, just before dinner with my trusty iPhone 4S i.e. an antique. Look at the beautiful detail on those shallots…:
Shallot tarte from the Good Food BBC website
- 600g shallots – I only had 400g so went with that
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 25g butter
- 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp demerara or soft light brown sugar
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 375g sheet puff pastry (depending on what size your shops sell, if you have left-over make the prussiens as explained below)
- 100g-140g goat’s cheese, sliced into rounds (we used 140g)
- fresh time for sprinkling on top of the cheese at the end
The good food guide says to put shallots in hot water for 10 minutes, I didn’t do that as I am not a patient person by nature (unless fiddling with graphs see the ghost and the jellyfish).
Possibly that is why I had tears running down my face, literally, as I peeled the shallots. I ended up doing it with my eyes closed, blind. It works but it’s not the best way…….Anyhow, you might want to try the hot water trick. After that I followed the recipe:
- Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the shallots and fry gently for 10-15 mins until softened and lightly browned. Stir in the vinegar and sugar with leaves from 2 thyme sprigs for a few mins until caramelised. Turn off heat and season (I didn’t season beyond a bit of salt). I then cut my shallots in half so they would make a nice pattern when the tatin is turned over – it worked as you can see above. If you have enough shallots you may not need to do that, but the visuals of the above being better than the original you might want to consider.
- Tear remaining thyme sprigs into a few pieces and scatter over the base of a 22cm ovenproof shallow pan, cake or tart tin without a loose base (I always use a springform pan here, it is the easiest thing in the world to get anything out of a spring form tin, and you can open it up and tip it onto a plate with nary a problem). Tip in the shallots with all their sticky juices. (I always use baking parchment here, for one, if your juices run out, then the parchment stops them, secondly sticky things come off parchment better than they do off pans). Roll out the pastry until it’s big enough to cut out a roughly 26cm circle. Lift the pastry circle onto the shallots, then tuck the edges down the inside of the pan. Bake for 25-30 mins until pastry is golden.
- Leave tart for 5 mins to settle, then turn out of the tin. Dot with rounds of goat’s- cheese
- I dotted fresh thyme leaves on top of the cheese, because it looks so pretty
Served with a nice green salad, and a pea and ricotta tarte to 5 diners.
So what did the guests say?
The shallot tarte tatin was a hit, the guests ate the whole thing in minutes. The pea and ricotta tarte went down well too, but no comparison to the shallots caramelised with balsamic vinegar and demerara sugar. Possibly too much contrast there. Anyhow, one should never tart up a simple tarte….failing Nonna di Giulia’s expert guidance on this recipe I resorted to the internet – the recipe I found had 200ml of heavy cream added to the ricotta and a short crust pastry and, while it was good, it lacked that rustic taste that I appreciate in what I consider, maybe wrongly, to be a peasant dish. Anyhow, I will ask Nonna how she makes hers and post the recipe when I have it. I usually try to read recipes in their native language, when they are translated they are often changed beyond reasonable recognition.
If want you to make a nice snack to go with wine: top left corner – I rolled them up but you could make prussien shapes if you are so inclined, you are patient, and the kitchen isn’t hot. Buy an already rolled out puff pastry dough – if you have time – heat a skillet without oil and toast sesame seeds, thyme leaves, sumac, salt, I also add some pul biber, because I like it, when it’s toasted, make sure not to burn put it into a cup add olive oil, the good stuff, taste and adapt seasonings, if you want you can also add some grated lemon rind from an organic lemon. When the mixture is cold – paint it onto your dough. roll out into prussiens or just roll and cut into disks with a cold and sharp knife. And put into the oven. Bake until baked – 180°C – about 10 minutes (this is the type of thing you just check until it’s done). Let the cookies cool and serve with a nice crisp white wine to happy guests.