I always joke that I grew up in a house where it was a necessity to learn to cook. Mum was far more interested in numbers than nutrition (she’s an actuary) & Dad’s take on dinner proved interesting, to say the least.
A frequent culinary exercise of his involved submerging a whole head of cauliflower in boiling water, clamping a lid down shut & returning an hour or two later. For another example of his somewhat enterprising cooking we can look to ‘Rice, Sausage Mush’ – a dish that uses mango chutney as a binding agent.
To my Dad’s credit he did establish brilliant family traditions like ‘Star-Trek Pasta Wednesday’ where – you’ve guessed it – we would eat pasta & watch Star-Trek on a Wednesday.
So, when Mum – a woman who struggles to turn on her own oven – told me that they were hosting a lunch for 20 on New Year’s Day & asked whether I had any menu ideas – I was, let’s say, a little surprised. I suggested a multitude of dishes with instructions for each & even went so far as to write her a shopping list all the while ignoring the little voice at the back of my head saying ‘is this really going to happen!?
When I turned up on the day, I was delighted to see that they had put on the most amazing spread & we had a delicious lunch. One thing that went down particularly well was an Asparagus & Gruyère Tart. I’m sure you might have noticed that there is a constant theme in my recipes; they are all pleasingly simple & easily modified & this dish is no different. Below, I have written up a variation on the tart but the options really are limitless; try Ricotta, Slow-Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes & Anchovies or Goat’s Cheese, Fig & Thyme.
ADDENDUM: I do have my parent’s consent to expose their foibles.
Yields 6 generous portions or 8 modest ones.
1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry // 180g Gruyère; grated // 3 courgettes // extra virgin olive oil // salt & pepper
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the courgettes lengthways to create wafer thin ribbons. Transfer the peeled courgette to a large bowl, pour a generous lug of olive oil over them & carefully toss so that they each have a glossy coat.
The ribbons need about 1-2 minutes on a very hot griddle pan – you’ll know they’re cooked when you can see dark char marks appearing.
To make the tart casing, start by pre-heating your oven to 180°. Unravel your ready rolled pastry on a clean work surface &, using a sharp knife, straighten out the edges so you are left with a neat rectangle. To create the crust, using the same knife, lightly score a border of about 3cm in from the edge of the pastry so that you’ve drawn a rectangle (make sure not to cut all the way through). The next step is to prick the pastry all over with a fork inside the rectangle you’ve drawn, then transfer to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper & bake until golden (this should take between 15-20min).
When you take your cooked pastry out of the oven the edges should have risen up to create a crust for your filling. Sprinkle the centre of the pastry shell with grated gruyère & lay the griddled courgette ribbons on top.
Season with salt & pepper & return to the oven so that the cheese melts & the pastry is warm through before serving.
S-O-T-H TIP: This can be made a day in advance & kept in the fridge. Just pop it in the oven to warm through before you serve it.