Last Friday night, I wanted to make something impressive for dinner but I, well, I couldn’t be arsed. So, to cover up my lack of effort I set my sights on serving two courses (it sounds like you’ve slaved away for a good amount of time that way) with a French theme (seems complicated enough, non?). For the starter I whipped up a classic that I’ve done countless times and know is easy peasy – French onion soup with cheesy croutons. I’ll post the recipe soon. And for the main, I tried my hand at a puff pastry tart complete with super fresh and tasty toppers.
A puff pastry tart is pretty straightforward, which is why I think it’s best to let the ingredients do the talking. I made sure I had some really lovely creamy Taleggio cheese that had been getting lively on the kitchen top for most of the afternoon, a jar of sweet onion marmalade from a clever friend, sumptuous sirloin steak from our butcher, fresh basil from my very own windowsill overlooking the train station (ah, the joys of London living), organic asparagus and a selection of different types of tomatoes – plum, cherry, Roma, beef and Campari – thanks to Forest Hill’s Saturday farmer’s market. It’s held in the grounds of the Horniman Museum every Saturday from around 10am until 1pm and as well as the fab selection of familiar and unexpected vegetables, you’ll also find my favourite sausage rolls in town, some great cakes, homemade dog biscuits, cheeses, jams and a stunning view of the city’s skyline.
As well as finding the just-right toppings for your tart, you’ll need a watchful eye. The tart doesn’t take long to cook and it doesn’t take long to burn either! But you don’t have to commit long to oven-door-peering – your delicious meal will be all wrapped up in less than 30 minutes. Not bad, eh?
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
Onion marmalade (I thoroughly recommend the Sainsbury’s Finest one, or make your own)
125g Taleggio cheese, cut into slithers
100g Gruyere cheese, grated
1 sirloin steak, about 225g, brought to room temperature about an hour before you start cooking
2 large beef tomatoes, sliced
Mixture of smaller tomatoes, halved
7 asparagus stems
Salt and pepper
Sprinkle a baking tray with flour, lay your pre-rolled pastry on it and trim off any overhang. Then lightly trace a 2cm border inside the pastry with a sharp knife, being careful not to slice all the way through. Using a fork give the pastry a generous stab within the border (this stops any shrinkage) and then brush all over with the egg.
Pop the pastry in the oven for 15 minutes. After that it should have puffed up around the edges and have started to turn a very light golden colour. Use the back of a fork to push down the middle if it has risen a lot and begin assembling your tart.
Start by spreading a generous layer of onion marmalade right up to the edges. Scatter half of the Gruyere over the marmalade base and then add the asparagus, lining them up lengthways with enough space to pop your sliced tomatoes in between each one. Layer the creamy Taleggio so it’s overlapping the asparagus and sporadically over or under your tomatoes. Brush a little more egg wash over the borders and pop back in the oven for 10 minutes.
While the tart is cooking, rub a generous lug of good quality olive oil into the steak, making sure you cover every bit and then season with lots of salt, fresh cracked black pepper and a little paprika. Get a pan really hot and then cook the steak. We like it rare, so that’s just three minutes each side. Then wrap the steak tightly in tin foil and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes, while you warm some plates, perhaps prepare a side salad or whip up a punchy mustard mayo.
Finally, cut the steak into chunks and spread over your crispy tart. Add the rest of the Gruyere and basil, salt and pepper it and you’re good to slice!