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June 13, 2014 7:06 pm
Quite a long time ago I worked for a patisserie that produced a range of tarts. Whatever the filling, be it apricots with crème patissière, strawberries, leeks, a classic quiche Lorraine or a tarte aux pommes, there were two grades of pastry. There was restaurant standard – a short, melting and buttery pâte brisée – and there was a rather more robust “shop” pastry, which made up in durability what it lacked in friability. With less butter and a bit of egg added to the paste, this was a product that would withstand travelling and handling. Not only did the pastry satisfy these logistical necessities, it also saved a few pence on butter, and pastry chefs are by tradition notoriously and exceedingly parsimonious.
Scroll down for method and ingredients
If the restaurant quality was a step up, it still had to be tough enough to withstand a trip in the van to the professional kitchens we supplied. Today, I would certainly aspire to make something even shorter, and most tarts I make are short to the point of crumbly. However, there are times when the contents of a tart require a stronger casing to keep them in line. A tomato tart, with the high water content of the tomatoes, needs to be able to hold firm.
An old friend of mine used to make an excellent tomato tart for picnics which consisted of a simple flaky pastry lining, a thin layer of mustard mixed with a smidgen of cream for insulation and then a layer of sliced tomatoes fanned over the top and the ensemble baked on a high heat. It was an excellent snack at the cricket before a chunk of salmon and some potato salad but could not be construed as a meal in itself.
The tart here is altogether more substantial. Instead of mustard, I have deployed a layer of creamed fennel to act as a lining. To cap it all, I have found an excuse to open a venerable tin of anchovies that a daughter found for me in Sicily.
Retrieving whole anchovies from a bed of salt, rinsing them and filleting them may seem a chore but these are as fine an anchovy as you’ll ever find: they are sweet, concentrated and nutty in flavour. As for the pastry, it may be firm but it is definitely restaurant grade.
|8||slightly firm tomatoes|
|12||anchovies or 24 fillets|
Whole anchovies must be rinsed in cold water and then filleted (simply by pushing down with the thumb on the backbone and pulling the spine away from the fillets) and trimmed before use.
Rowley’s drinking choice
Tomatoes can be harsh on wine. An oily, aromatic Vermentino would be a good resort.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais.
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