Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Broccoli, Aubergine, and Pea Tart

We were recently given a couple of bags of whole wheat flour from our flour supplier who encouraged us to experiment with it as he was proud of its mixture of grains. He suggested that it would work well in my shortcrust pastry, but I was skeptical as shortcrust can be a bit finicky to work with. I wasn't sure what to make for dinner tonight, but we received our organic veg box and I had this bag of flour so I decided to make a tart.

Tarts seem difficult to make, but once you know how to make a good shortcrust pastry, they're relatively simple and are extremely versatile. This one was made with vegetables and other ingredients I had on hand, but the tart filling can be virtually anything.

The whole wheat crust worked out really well. It was a little bit more difficult to work with than white flour, and I had to patch up holes in the crust, but it was impossible to tell this in the end. It was also delicious and didn't taste in any way inferior to the white flour version.

Serve with salad, bread, or whatever else strikes your fancy.

The Recipe:

For the shortcrust pastry:
200g whole wheat flour
100g butter
1 medium sized egg

For the filling:
1 medium sized aubergine
1/2 head of broccoli
1 medium sized onion
about half a cup of frozen peas
small bunch of coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
soft goat's cheese
parmesan cheese
2 medium sized eggs
1 small container of single cream

To make the shortcrust pastry (this can be done in advance): Chop the butter into cubes and add to the flour. Keeping the ingredients as cold as possible will yield the best results. Work the two ingredients together until the mixture has the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add in an egg and mix together until you have a dough. Put this into a clean plastic bag and either refrigerate it or freeze it, if you are making the pastry well in advance.

When you're ready to make the tart, butter up a tart pan, flour your work surface, and roll out the pastry (if it's frozen, allow it to thaw first) to about an eighth of an inch thick. Place the tart pan on the rolled out pastry and cut a circle about an inch more than the diameter of the pan. Place the circle of dough in the centre of the tart pan and press the outer part of the dough against the walls of the pan. Press the dough into the pan and try to push out any air bubbles. If the dough has cracked anywhere, just patch it up with the excess dough that you will have cut away earlier.

To make the filling, chop up the onions, aubergines, broccoli, and peas. Fry them up with some olive oil and once they're done, transfer them to a bowl. Add in the chopped parsley, the goat's cheese, the egg, and the cream, and mix this all together. Season.

Pour the filling into the tart shell, sprinkle it with parmesan cheese, and put this into an oven preheated to 180 degrees. The tart is finished when the filling is solid--about 30-35 minutes.

What is healthy about this recipe: The usual caveats about butter, eggs, and cheese apply (but they are so delicious), but the whole wheat flour does provide a healthier alternative to a regular shortcrust pastry.

What is seasonal about this recipe: The peas were frozen, but the rest of the veg was seasonal. The nice thing about tarts is that you can vary them to fully take advantage of seasonal produce.

What I learned from this recipe: Flour is an ingredient that we generally take for granted, but we've increasingly been learning that it is an interesting and important ingredient and it's worth paying attention to. The flour we use comes from a local cereals farmer who grows an organic medieval blend of flour that is stoneground (this gentler process keeps more nutrients in the flour than the usual industrial process). I've been seriously impressed with this flour and think that it's worth the extra effort to track down organic and stoneground flour. The results are worth it.

What I will change next time: This is the first time that I've used whole wheat flour to make shortcrust pastry and it needs a little bit of work until I'm ready to use it for my pies, where the visual element is more important. Still, this pastry was promising and I'll be sure to use it again.

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