Saturday, September 18, 2004

A Letter Home to Mother.

This week my mother wanted some help with an idea of something she could make for vegetarians at a buffet party she is throwing shortly for a colleague who is retiring.

She asked me the question on the telephone a few days ago and I suggested a puff pastry tart. These can be quickly and easily prepared in hundreds of combinations. They nearly always taste delicious and everyone seems to really like them. I wish I could be there to help her, but as I am on the other side of the world, this is the next best thing.

I suggested two different styles to my mother: Roasted pepper, olive and goat cheese, plus a tomato, basil and mozzarella. My mother is lucky, living in England as she does, she will easily be able to buy fresh ready-rolled puff pastry from a supermarket like Sainsbury's. You should check out the Sainsbury's website, they have a really great recipe collection! Here in the US, unfortunately, I have only been able to find frozen puff pastry. But it doesn't take long to defrost, and it is a good thing to have a supply of in the freezer in case of impromptu guests or as the base for a quick easy meal.

Dear Mum,
Here are some tips on how to make the Tarts.

Ingredients: Puff pastry, salt, pepper and olive oil, plus for the Tomato tart - fresh tomato thinly sliced, deseeded and patted dry(too much choose will make the pastry instead of soggy), tomato puree (the sundried variety could be used), fresh mozzarella balls and fresh basil. For the pepper and olive tart - roasted deskinned red peppers roughly sliced, olive tapenade (we prefer to use a version without anchovy), pitted olives and a tasty goat cheese.

Lay on a non-stick baking tray, turn over the edges to create a lip and prick the base with a fork (to let steam out during baking).

For the tomato tart: spread a little tomato paste on the base. Cover with thinly sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with freshly torn basil and then dot with regularly spaced halves of the mozzarella balls. Season and dribble with a mere touch of olive oil.

For the red pepper and olive tart: spread the base with tapenade. Spread with the sliced roasted red peppers. Position some olive halves and then dab a line of goat cheese on top. Again, season and dribble with a mere touch of olive oil.

Bake in a hot preheated oven 400 F/ 205 C for about 25 minutes.
If your oven is uneven, turn half way through.
The pastry will be golden and crispy once cooked.

The results: Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Tart.

The results: Red Pepper, Olive and Goat Cheese Tart.

Mum please note: these are best cooked last minute, but could be prepared earlier and left in the fridge before cooking, as long as you haven't used lots of very 'wet' ingredients which might cause the pastry to get soggy. Leave the mere touch of oil til the last minute if you do this.
The ones I made above are half size. I suggest making them each standard size for your party. If you are only going to choose one type to make, I would go for the mozzarella and tomato one as it has a more of a universal appeal.

Good luck! Let me know how you got on...

love Sam x

PS Other combinations you might like to try:
Caramelized onion with thyme and fontina cheese.
Red onion, feta, spinach, greek olives and lemon.
Dijon mustard, ham and gruyere.
Leeks and mature cheddar
Add prosciutto to either of the tarts outlined in the recipe above, for a more carnivorous result.
(the possibilities are endless)

Anyone who is reading this who has any further ideas, please feel free to add them to the comments list if you'd like. Thank you
A Letter Home to Mother.


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