Jenny's Week: to tart or to pie?

Jenny's Week: to tart or to pie?

Brie and Tomato tart

Winter Couscous lunch

First published in The Food Blog by

I have discovered that I really like making tarts.

Doesn't matter if it's a "slab of puff pastry" tart, or a "in a tart case" or a quiche – I love them all and the end result is usually double-yummy, plus there's something immensely satisfying about pulling a gorgeous looking pastry confection out of the oven.

It's a different kind of satisfaction to making a pie, I find, as that "reveal" moment of cutting into a pie is always fraught with anxiety as to whether the filling is cooked, too thin, too thick or has just disappeared in the process.

When you've created a tart, the "reveal" moment is all to do with the flavour and if you've paired your filling ingredients up wisely, then you're almost guaranteed to succeed.

Wise pairing of ingredients is what it's all about with this Tomato & Brie Tart that I cropped from an old copy of Delicious! magazine. The oven-baked cherry tomatoes are like small flavour bombs that are hidden within the subtly cheesy, creamy, eggy goodness of the tart's filling. From the high pitched explosions of tomato flavour, to the supporting cast of the chives that give the tart filling another dimension, the delicate creaminess of the Brie is there, giving good honest earthiness and a hint of expensive exclusivity.

Mind you, this tart very nearly didn't happen - and for more than one reason.

Firstly, we had a great deal of deliberation in the supermarket over which cherry tomato to buy.

Needless to say, 300g of cherry tomatoes aren’t all that easy to find when packs contain 250g and there are no loose versions around. Then there was the price - from £1.20 through to £1.75, I wasn't keen on spending nearly £4 simply on tomatoes!

Eventually we settled on two punnets of baby plum tomatoes, only to find - once I opened the packs at home - that at least two in each punnet were literally furry with mould. Gross! Not to mention the waste of money. The next catastrophe was the cream. I'd had a large container of cream in the fridge for a few days - and so bought another smaller container, just in case.

Stupidly, I cracked the eggs into the bowl and then added the cream without remembering to taste it first and check that it was still good. The "flop" as the cream cheese lump disappeared beneath the eggy waves, alerted me to the fact that the cream was a long way from good.

So those three eggs had to go down the plughole - with the rotten cream - and I had to start again. The waste of three eggs hurt, let me tell you.

I had the leftovers for lunch the following day and can confirm that the tart was as good then as it had been warm. The brie flavour had taken something of a back seat, being cold, but it was still very much there. From which I deduce that the tart would be perfect picnic ammunition - and with the summer just about coming into view through the mist-laden Dorset hills, I'll have to remember this one!

Speaking of lunchtime, I made some Winter Couscous the other evening and (as often happens) had a quantity left over. Hooray! Almost instant lunch for the following day. All I had to do was soft boil an egg and slice up an avocado, then sit down and tuck in.

Making the Winter Couscous is a breeze, so long as you've got a little bit of time beforehand and a kitchen door. The door is necessary to be able to shut and so prevent your smoke alarm from going doo-lally as you chargrill the courgettes, peppers and red onion. Having lots of windows (or another, back door) to open and so allow the smoke out and some air in, is another good idea.

I absolutely adore using my chargrill pan. I even began to feel quite professional, as I lay on the strips of courgette, then flipped them over and admired the chargrill stripes that appeared. Almost the best part about the whole process is the smell, but then that's beaten into the proverbial cocked hat by the flavours. Of course, it is completely necessary for you to taste a piece of each vegetable - after all, Chef Raymond Blanc insists upon it. (I reckon he uses a chargrill pan a lot, from the sounds of things, then).

I left the veggies to cool on a plate for a couple of hours before cutting them into smaller pieces for inclusion in the couscous along with cherry tomatoes, celery, some chopped capers, parsley & mint. It's only a wonder there was anything left (particularly of the courgette - yum), after all that rigorous taste testing.

I was intending on putting a dressing with the couscous, however, the olive oil I used when chargrilling the vegetables was obviously sufficient when combined with the vinegary salty capers and the juices from the cooked vegetables, so an additional dressing was superfluous.

With the addition of the avocado and the gorgeous yolk from the egg running through, it made a perfect lunch. Hooray for leftovers!

Click for the tart recipe

Click for the Winter couscous recipe

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