July - No time for neutered toms

Tomato Tartlet

I dare not ask green-fingered fellow-members how their veg are coming along after such a damp squib of an early summer. My vine - with a few herbs, the limit of my growing ambitions - is barely in leaf and I grieve for the waterlogged ambitions of the growbag fraternity as I head for my local farmers' market for vine-ripened Cocktails or Camparis. They are surely grown under glass or polytunnel, but they taste infinitely better than the always-available kind that amble over from the Low Countries, as perfect-looking and as perfectly acid as Bette Davis in her low-pH prime.

I've been making simple tomato tartlets for many years - hardly a recipe, more a fridge-clearing exercise that turns the end of a packet of puff pastry, a last inch of tomato puree, a few elderly grilled peppers, withering olives and scrappy bits of basil into much more than the sum of their parts. The version below, one of the most enduring appetisers on the menu at The Ivy, definitely takes it up yet another notch. The pastry is part-baked first, for a lighter, puffier feel and then spread with a 'pizza base' of pureed sun-dried tomatoes.

The wrap-around richness and power of fragrant, new-wave white Rhônes absorb both the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes and remain unfazed by any olives, artichokes and other Mediterranean goodies you might choose to add, as I do. A sturdy Portuguese white or good, gutsy pink will work too.


Serves 8

from The Big Red Book of Tomatoes by Lindsey Bareham (Grub Street, 2011) initially published in The Ivy, The Restaurant and its Recipes by A.A. Gill, recipes by Mark Hix (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 1997)

  • 8 x 16m rounds of puff pastry, 3-4mm thick (about 1kg should do it - JWE)
  • 240g sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 2 tsp tomato puree
  • 8 large or 12 medium ripe plum or well-flavoured tomatoes, cored, peeled and sliced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • For the basil dressing
  • 120g basil
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3. Prick the pastry bases with a fork, lay them on a flat, oiled baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes to ensure the pastry doesn't rise. Turn up the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

Drain most of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes then process them with the tomato puree to make a fine paste. Transfer to a bowl. Rinse out the blender and wipe it dry.

Process the basil with the olive oil, adding a little more oil if the dressing seems too thick.

To assemble the galettes, spread a thin layer of the sun-dried tomato puree on the pastry bases. Lay the sliced tomatoes in a circle on top, overlapping slightly. Season with black pepper and bake for 10 minutes.

Serve on a warm plate. Drizzle the basil dressing generously over the tomatoes and sprinkle with sea-salt flakes.

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