ONION & SPICY TOMARTO TART
You can also do this recipe for a gluten free preference..
Inspired by my mother’s Quiche Lorraine …
I like to cook… Often I make my own recipes up to suit my tastes or those of my family or my mood at the time… I am a visual cook.. I take ideas from pictures, magazines, books, something I see on a plate in a restaurant or on the TV, anything that catches my attention… But often I cook based on an experience I have had … In this case:
Quiche Lorraine, this blog is based on a childhood memory from my childhood home – Dutch Gardens in Wraysbury or as I affectionately called it ‘Toilets-ville’ … Sunday lunch, come hell or high water you came home for the habitual, sometimes torturous family meal… It was obligatory… Like a lot of families, Sunday lunches could be more than a trifle tense!
Strolling in the house from my usual summer haunt, the local reservoir, where I had been swimming all day with my friends, I went out onto the lawns at the back of the house. There on the lawn was today's chosen spot for lunch. The round garden table had been set up for late lunch in the usual opulent design style by my mother; on this occasion the table was covered with a patterned table cloth in hideous bright green with large white Chinese flower design printed on it. Over the top of that was the ornately crocheted white table cloth made by my grandmother, with raised flower petals, which made it almost impossible to place anything down on the table as the protruding woollen flowers made the surface so uneven that anything you placed on the table was prone to fall over. Subsequently, this ‘heirloom’ spent most of its life soaking in water due to spillages and the like!Place mats had been laid out on top of this uneven surface, which were also themed in Chinese style thus in unison with the table cloth, placed on top of the mats were four white plates decorated with green ivy leaves, [aren’t they poisonous?]. The cutlery today had black plastic handles that could be hung on a centre piece when not in use like a table mounted chandelier. And the newest pepper grinder adorned the table, a huge out of proportion shiny black object. For those of you that remember the 70’s… Pepper grinders, ‘were all the rage’ and got larger and larger and became a design statement… How big is yours?!! The table as ever was the epitome of this month’s current fashion style of the moment as seen through the eyes of my mother.
My father Trevor was hovering around the garden foliage tensely, adorned in one of my mother’s aprons, he was bringing things from the house on the long journey to the table… Backward and forward he went. I have often wondered, why the British in good or moderately good weather set their tables up so far away from the house and kitchen so it becomes a marathon to just serve the table in an easy natural manner, at Dutch Gardens it could take ten minutes pending on where the dining table was placed, to go back to the kitchen to get another drink! Have you noticed in sunnier climes, the alfresco eating is simple and easy…. The barbeque, the table are all built next to the kitchen on the nearby terrace area, genius! As yet to be adopted by the British!
Trevor reappeared again on one of the far flung terraces carefully carrying new china jugs masquerading and modelled on lettuce leaves, filled with salad cream and mayonnaise. His tongue slightly out of his mouth as he concentrated on balancing the jugs on their lettuce leaf saucers, as he negotiated his way to the table with the jugs intact. Off he went again, this time he tried the route via the arched bridge over the pond, which in the winter was lethal, because the ‘hump’ was so severe that in the icy weather it was a death trap, you slid down it and if you were lucky ended up at the bottom of the bridge, if you were less lucky you went off the edge into the pond, which was less painful if it was not covered in ice. In the summer however, you could walk up and over the steep incline of the bridge, which had archways cut into the top wall through which you could look through onto the sunken garden, through two of the archways came the branches of the old Victoria plumb tree, a fine specimen that in the summer groaned with the weight of the fruit crop, if you lived at Dutch Gardens you knew not to take this route, so my brother and I watched with some interest as Trevor made his way back to the house on this path, and as we expected once he had got to the middle of this small bridge he took to running and hopping, the reason being that in midsummer the plumb tree was so laden with fruit that it would drop to the ground and ferment, which meant it was an intoxicating attraction to hordes of wasps, who would feed and gorge on the sweet flesh, rendering them incapable of properly taking to the air so they would stagger around on the ground in a drunken agitated bliss on the steepest part of the bridge, wings flapping but going nowhere in a state of what can only be described as mania. [Come we have all been there!] Needless to say they took acceptation to anyone walking on them or near them over the bridge!
Sometime later Trevor, having survived with only minor injury reappeared again this time via the morning room terrace, carrying a larger china bowl that was in the shape of what looked like cauliflower adorned with lettuce leaves, which was sat on a large plate decorated with a china tomatoes pattern. Deciding to take a safer route to the right, he set off… In his ‘piny’ pocket was a bottle of ketchup, reaching the table he placed them down… For a Sunday lunch these items were indeed unusual. The ketchup, I got, my brother was known to cover his plate in ketchup. But salad? Trevor did not do salad? And on Sundays we only ever had a roast? Trevor’s favourite meal, Trevor, being a war baby was a great believer in the theory that there was nothing healthier than a good fat ball around the heart to keep you healthy! How times have changed! Trevor does not even do vegetables except on rare occasions if they are pan fired in butter… So salad? It just did not make sense … My brother and I sat down, knowing this was not the time to ask obvious questions..
Trevor sat, he was quietly clearly brooding, something to be fair he excelled at! He fumbled with his napkin trying to tuck it into his shirt to stop what would have normally been gravy dribbling down his shirt… Finally, yonder, my exceptionally beautiful mother appeared at the door of the morning room, dressed on this occasion like Margo from the sitcom ‘The Good Life’, in plunging blue midi dress with matching head scarf and wrap around platform sandals, the attached gold medallions chinking as she walked. Holding a large tray with oven gloved hands she made her approach to the table via the terrace, down the York stone flagged stairs over onto the next terrace, down the steps and onto the lawn and then around the pond and across the lawn to where we were sitting.. Everything in my childhood was a production… Without exception and this was not an exception ….
She placed the tray on the table and immediately Trevor’s mood lightened… There was his favourite food … An enormous Yorkshire pudding, just for him, which was placed in front of him.. In the centre of the table my mother placed a Quiche Lorraine, which was the first time I had seen one and some butter new potatoes, which I had seen!… The Quiche was in a white sculpted edged, 4cm deep china tart dish, you know the ones that have the recipe printed on the bottom of the dish, so you can’t read it once you have started to cook it, this also always confused me as a child… My life was really a constant confusion! The tart was light golden brown and decorated with cooked sliced tomatoes all made with eggs, milk and cheese….. And my memory of it, was that it was delicious… There was no family ‘issues’ for a change on this occasion… However it was the first and last time that my mother ever deviated from the normal Sunday roast… But it made an impression on me… A very Happy One!
This is my take on an autumn quiche,is nothing like that simple but voluptuous number that my mother made on that Sunday, times change and so do recipes, but none the less it is a summer staple of my family… But now we are officially in autumn, for me that does not quite work, So this is my season take on a warm tart.. Without wishing to make a pun .. Everyone likes a warm tart! This one can be eaten hot or cold and can be frozen … Because it is spiced with chilli it retains a heat …
Either buy your short crust pastry or make it yourself, whichever suits your preference, white flour – I have also used corn flour for anyone with gluten issues… It makes the finish a bit crisper and flaky… A 26cm loose bottom tin will do, you will shout at me at first because, you will think that there is not enough pastry to fill the tin, but just roll it thin …. It works!
110g white flour
50g cold butter – [I used half butter, half lard… Why because I just fancied doing that way!] But whatever suits you…
Pinch of salt & a bit of cold water to bind …
You know how to make pastry … Right …. Cube the butter mix with the flour, salt and use your fingers or a mixer to turn it into crumbs, then carefully bind with a bit of water and kneed for a bit on a cold floured surface … Wrap in cling film and bung it in the fridge for at least 30 mins … When ready roll it thinly and place in the tart tins that have been lightly greased, then put the tins back in the fridge.
The oven should be switched on to 200 / 180 or there about’s … I used to use an Aga in another house so I am really a bit loose when it comes to oven heat! … At the moment until the kitchen is ‘done’ in this house, I have an ‘old bus’ that came with the house… It has a dodgy door and the dials have mostly lost their instruction symbols, and you can burn your fingers turning them off! It sort of looks like it came out of my Grandma’s kitchen from the 1970 and has been continually used since then without a break! Not easy but you go with what you have … Until the refurb! ….
For the filling ….
Sprinkling of smoked Paprikaor Cayenne, if you don’t have Paprika..
5’ish medium sized onions – I like red
Butter & a bit of oil to stop it catching for frying
1tsp or whatever is your heat kick of chilli flakes
7 – 14 cherry tomatoes or whatever you have to hand
300ml of cream or thereabouts..
Cheese, your choice, a cheddar or to be posh even a Parmesan, you choose how much cheese you like..
Salt & Pepper ..
If you have time or are in the mood, slice the onions into rings, or whatever shape suits your knife skills… Pan fry them in the butter and oil .. You want them to have a crunch, but if you can try and catch the edges of the onions in the butter, it looks good… If I was a proper cook I would say, set aside the onions on a plate to cool, but I am not! So bung in the cut tomatoes with the onions and soften them down and let them catch a bit. too.. Tip… If the tomatoes are in any way ‘tart’ … Then throw in a quick sprinkle of caster sugar..
Whilst you are cooking the onion and tomatoes, bake the pastry cases blind.. Before you put them in the oven prick the base of the pastry and sprinkle with smoked paprika – put a bit of grease proof paper in the pastry cases and fill with uncooked rice if you don’t have any cooking beans … Cook for about 15 minutes, if you want to be a purist then you can take the pastry out of the oven after 15 minutes and paint the cases with some beaten egg and then pop them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.. This makes the pastry even more crisp..
In a bowl beat the eggs, add salt & pepper with some chopped parsley, the cream, cheese and chilli flakes and sometimes, Tip… I put a spoonful of mustard in the mixture for some background balance… Put the onion and tomato mixture in the pastry case and drizzle over the creamy mixture… Turn the oven down a bit to say 180 – 160 and bake for 25 - 35 minutes, until the tart is golden in colour… This tart can be eaten hot or cold, depending on your preference.. If you choose to freeze it, I like to re-heat the tart, when defrosted, with a bit of tin foil over the top to protect its integrity …
Tip… Be careful where you place the tart in the freezer… My nouveau riche parents, who built their own designer home in the 1970’s, [please see Voyage: Dutch Gardens – My Childhood Home], for some reason they decided to put a small freezer above the fridge at high level, which was strange; one evening whilst I was happily watching Crossroads on TV in the lounge, I heard an enormous thud and a sort of cry… I thought about ignoring it as unusual… Because things were always happening at Dutch Gardens and mostly it was best not to investigate..
However… curiosity pulled me away from the TV and I strolled through the house, scanning the large windows as I went to see if I could see what had happened this time.. I came into the large entrance hall at the front of the house and scanned the scene outside through the glass.. Nothing … As I span around to return to the TV, there on the kitchen floor was my mother spread eagled unconscious on the floor with a large bruise on her forehead and a dead chicken next to her.. Although being accustomed to unusual things, seeing a frozen dead chicken on the floor was a new one on me.. Contemplating my options, I decided to approach and see what I could do… My mother was now coming round and needed me to help pull her up, into a sitting position, and lean her up against the kitchen cupboard… I scanned the scene and realised that my mother had clearly opened the high level freezer, presumably to retrieve something out of the there, obviously a rogue frozen chicken had fallen out of the freezer and hit her square on the forehead knocking her out cold!
… For the record this was not the first or last time I had reason to be sceptical of the behaviour of a frozen chickens … Don’t get me started on my aunt and her frozen chicken … That is perhaps for another time! …
So an accompaniment to our spicy tart .. On this occasion I rather liked the idea of the last of the ‘new’ potatoes of the season, boiled and then rolled in olive oil, put them in the oven with half garlic crowns and roast for 20 – 30 minutes, sprinkled of course with salt & pepper for the flavour.
My husband loves peas, so for the veg, what about Warm Pea Salad… Peas, lettuce and cucumber… Warmed in olive oil, vinegar a pinch of sugar, salt & pepper…
Simple but delicious … Enjoy ….