Heirloom tomatoes, that is tomatoes grown from heritage varieties of seed are becoming easier to find – you’ll find them at Fallon and Byrne in Dublin and at specialist vegetable shops around the country. They are quirky little things that come in odd shapes and a rainbow of colours on the red/yellow/purple spectrum. They look stunning on a tart, especially if you mix the colours. Use ordinary tomatoes if you can’t find them.
250g heirloom tomatoes in red, yellow and purple if possible
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
375ml pack of all-butter puff pastry sheet (defrosted, if frozen)
2 tablespoons of good quality pesto or 4 tablespoons garlic and herb cream cheese
8 fresh basil leaves, shredded
80g artisan Cheddar, grated (see note below)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (preferably fruity)
1. Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle them with sea salt and black pepper.
2. To make an oblong tart: Unravel the puff pastry sheet onto a baking sheet. Take a small sharp knife and make a score mark all around the edge of the tart, about 30mm from the edge, making sure that you only score the pastry and don’t cut through it. (This score mark will allow the edge of the pastry to rise and stop the tomatoes spreading out over the edge.)
3. Spread the pesto or cream cheese over the puff pastry inside the score mark. Sprinkle the basil leaves and cheddar on top and layer the tomato slices neatly over the cheese. Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes.
4. Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes in a pre-heated oven at the temperature on the puff pastry package (it varies with the pastry) until the pastry has risen and is golden. Check that the tomatoes are soft by prodding them with a sharp knife. Leave until it is warm to serve.
To make this tart in a 9 inch round baking tin (see our photograph)
Roll the sheet of puff pastry so it is an inch larger than your baking tin. Place the pastry on top of the tin and press it gently into it (you don’t want to squash the layers in the pastry). Trim the edges. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes in a pre-heated oven at the temperature on the puff pastry package. Remove from the oven, use a clean tea towel to gently flatten the pastry in the middle of the tin which will have risen (this will inhibit the pastry from rising further in the next stage of cooking). Proceed with the recipe from Step 3 above – you may need to cook the pastry for 5-8 minutes less so keep an eye on it. The pastry should be golden and the tomatoes soft.
It’s a simple tart so use good ingredients
What’s the point of pairing a processed cheddar with old-fashioned heritage tomatoes? An Irish farm cheese like a 9-12 month old Mount Callan mature cheddar cheese would suit the artisan tone of this tart. It’s a hard cow’s cheese made from the rich creamy milk of Montbeliard cows and it was awarded a bronze medal at British Cheese Awards in 2002. You can mix it up by using a blue cheese or Parmesan or Grana Padano instead of Cheddar or a mixture.
The olive oil in this recipe is used to add flavour and sheen to the tomatoes: if you use a cheap oil, say a vegetable oil, or a rapeseed oil which hasn’t much flavour, you will ruin the sweet flavour of the tomatoes and you’ll find you get an oily coating in your mouth that will overpower the other ingredients. Olive oil however will add value to the tart and is good to eat.
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