Flan club

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am


These tarts are made with the same dough and ricotta-based savoury cus- tard, but the results are different. The first tart feels lighter and more sum- mery, probably due to the juicy cherry tomatoes, while the spinach tart is more substantial.

Because it's made with olive oil, rather than butter or another solid fat, this pastry dough is pliable, even when chilled, and it's easy to roll very thin. It needs to be sufficiently hydrated, or else the dough is tough. Add all the water recommended in the recipe; it's easier to work in a little more flour if the dough is sticky than it is to add more water at the end if the dough is dry. The original recipe for the pastry dough comes from food blog Chocolate & Zucchini (chocolateandzucchini.com). The blogger, Clotilde Dusoulier, uses equal parts of whole-wheat and plain flour, which result in a crisp, cracker-like crust. For these tarts, I use a higher proportion of plain flour, which makes the crust softer and more tender. Use anywhere between my (admittedly small) proportion of whole-wheat flour and Dusoulier's 50 per cent, just make sure the total weight of the combined flour is 250 grams.

Cherry tomato and ricotta tart with whole-wheat and olive-oil crust (pictured)

For the pastry:

75 grams whole-wheat flour

175 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for rolling

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 tsp dried thyme leaves, roughly crumbled

60ml extra-virgin olive oil

100ml ice water

For the filling:

350 grams large cherry tomatoes

1 garlic clove, minced

10ml olive oil

5 grams parmesan cheese

1 thyme sprig, leaves only

For the ricotta custard:

3 large eggs

250 grams ricotta

100ml cream

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, thoroughly combine the whole-wheat flour, plain flour, salt and thyme leaves. Drizzle the olive oil over the ingredients then use a fork to mix it in. Add the ice water and mix until the dough forms a rough mass. The dough should be soft but not sticky; if it is sticky, mix in a little more flour. Knead it briefly then wrap in cling-film and refrigerate for at least an hour. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough until it's very thin (about 2mm) and fit it into a tart pan with a removable bottom (use a rectangular tin that's about 33cm x 15cm and about 2cm deep, or a 23-25cm round tin). Ease the dough into the pan- do not stretch it. Trim off the dough so it's flush with the edges then refrigerate for about 30 minutes. Use a fork to poke holes at 1.5cm intervals over the bottom of the dough so it doesn't puff up when it bakes. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Put the tart pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat to 180 degrees and bake until it's fragrant and pale golden. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Increase the oven temperature to 200 degrees.

Cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a pan that fits them in one layer. Drizzle with the olive oil then add the parmesan, thyme leaves, minced garlic and black pepper. Mix to coat the tomato evenly then arrange the pieces cut-side up in the pan. Bake at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until slightly shrivelled but not collapsed. Cool for about 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.

In a food processor, mix the eggs with the ricotta and cream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the tart shell (still in the pan) on a baking sheet and fill it halfway with the egg/ricotta mixture. Arrange the tomatoes close together in the shell and, if necessary, add more custard so it's filled close to the brim. Bake for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 180 degrees and continue baking until the custard is set (about 15 more minutes). Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. If there are any tomatoes and custard leftover, bake them together in a buttered ramekin.

Spinach and ricotta tart with pine nuts

I use frozen spinach for this recipe because it's easier. You can use fresh spinach, but be sure to rinse it thoroughly because it can be muddy.

1 whole-wheat and olive-oil tart shell (round or rectangular), prepared and fully baked as in the first recipe

Ricotta custard, as prepared in the first recipe

15ml olive oil

2 shallots, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

125 grams frozen spinach, thawed

25 grams pine nuts

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a skillet over a low flame. Add the shallot and garlic and cook until soft. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, then cook over a high flame until hot. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Heat the pine nuts in a small, unoiled skillet set over a low flame. Stir constantly until the pine nuts are fragrant and lightly browned.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Ladle some of the ricotta custard over the spinach and add the grated lemon zest. Mix thoroughly then spread this over the bottom of the tart shell. Scatter the pine nuts over the spinach then add more of the custard mixture, filling the shell close to the brim. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 180 degrees and finish baking until set.

Styling Nellie Ming Lee