In my opinion, there are three main qualities to a good shortcrust pastry case: it needs to be crisp, dry and flaky. The so-called soggy bottoms are, obviously, something which is neither pleasant to the eye nor the taste. Think about it. Would you rather eat a good tart with a crumbly base or a soggy, wet and unappetizing one? I think we can all imagine what the answer would be. Over time, I have tried many different shortcrust recipes and I can finally say I have found my favourite one. Traditionally, shortcrust is made with an equal quantity of butter and lard, which lends itself to a very crisp and crumbly crust. I use all butter. It saves me having to buy an extra ingredient and the result I get is crisp and dry enough for my taste. I will share the recipe below and this is a seasoned one. It comes from a 1980s baking cookbook!
Tarts are more or less like pizza. You have the same base (crust) and you can personalize them how you want them. This is a very simple way to have your kids eat vegetables, because the cheese and the cream take the edge off the ‘all veggies’ taste. All in all, however, it is a vegetable tart, so please ensure you use the best quality ingredients for maximum flavour. The goat’s cheese is not fundamental, roasting the vegetables is. Tomatoes, especially, are full of water and juices and you need to shed some of them (put them through a bikini diet if you wish), otherwise you will end up with a soggy bottom or a tart case overflowing with water. Also make sure you season well both the vegetables and the cream filling.
Ingredients (for the shortcrust pastry)
- 225g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 100g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 4 tbsp icy cold water
Ingredients (for the tart filling)
- 1 aubergine, cut into small chunks
- 1 courgette, thickly sliced
- 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
- 1 red onion, thickly sliced
- 3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 250g cherry tomatoes on the vine
- 300ml double cream
- 3 large eggs
- approximately 10-15 basil leaves
- 150g hard goat’s cheese
- As promised, we start with the pastry. Put the flour, salt and cold butter in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, crush the butter and mix it with the flour. Mix the flour every once in a while to evenly distribute the butter. You are aiming for a sand-like consistency and there shouldn’t be any bigger butter lumps left in the bowl.
- Next, pour in 3 tbsp icy cold water and initially use a butter knife to mix that in, then switch to your hand. Try to use as few movements as possible and gather the pastry together in the bowl. If the pastry is too dry, slowly add the remaining water, little by little, then mix together. If the pastry is too wet (shouldn’t be the case), add a tiny bit of flour and mix that in too. Just to make things clear, you are aiming for a slightly dry consistency. This is not a bread dough, the drier it is, the shorter and crumblier the end result will be. Keep on mixing the pastry in the bowl and use it to wipe the bowl clean. Another good tip if you realise you need some more water – but you are afraid you might add too much – is to wet your hand under cold running water, then shake the excess water off it and use that hand to mix the pastry.
- Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and leave to cool and relax in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- In the meantime, get started on the filling. Heat the oven to 200C.
- Toss the vegetables (minus the tomatoes) together with some olive oil and some seasoning, then tumble onto a large baking tray. Roast for 20 minutes. Toss through the tomatoes, then roast for another 20 minutes, until nicely cooked. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 190C and place a flat baking sheet in the oven to warm up.
- Now, you might need to wait to do the step before because I usually roll out the pastry, line the tin, trim the excess off, then I chill it for at least another 30 minutes before baking. That said, you could potentially prepare the pastry in advance, so let’s carry on.
- Prick the base of the tart with a fork, then line with baking parchment and pour some baking beans on top. Blind bake for 15 minutes, then remove the weights and the baking parchment and return to the oven for another 15 minutes, until golden and cooked through.
- Reduce the oven to 160C, then prepare the filling by squeezing the garlic from their skins into a jug. Add some salt and use a fork to mash it and make a paste out of it. Add the cream and eggs, then briefly whisk together. Season with pepper.
- Put about 2/3 of the vegetables in the cooked tart case and mix in the basil leaves. Pour over the cream filling, then top with the remaining vegetables and grate the cheese on top of the tart. Bake for a further 40-50 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven, let it cool slightly, then unmould and serve. Enjoy!