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Ottolenghi's tomato tarts

"The best thing to do to overcome feeling downcast and gloomy is to eat tomatoes a few times a week, say researchers." The Health Site

I was feeling down this morning, so I decided to go for a walk. A walk is supposed to be good for depression, so surely for just a bit of the blues it would be excellent. It might have been excellent for my health, but not so much for my mood. I did manage a few photographs - including one of a peacock - which you don't see every day. Alas the tail was down - in fact it might have been the female and therefore no flashy tail anyway - and it was rummaging around a depressing pile of pots and dying plants - so not really very cheering. Anyway the walk really was not that cheering. Indeed I was feeling so gloomy and uninspired that I typed in a heading 'In praise of second best' in an attempt to boost my morale. However, I couldn't really think of anything to say, took out a book I'm thinking of discarding and saw a brief reference to one of Ottolenghi's tomato tarts so started fairly aimlessly browsing the net during which time I found he has five different tomato tarts including the sunny looking version above, called simply Tomato galette. And interestingly it's the only one of his tomato tarts that has not been extensively copied by all and sundry. But it looked so cheerful and sunny that I thought I would do another Ottolenghi fan piece (yes a bit pathetic) - this time in praise of the tomato, about which he says:

"Few ingredients have such an attractive look and so many uses as the almost magical tomato."

Which made me think of Van Gogh - the ultimate depressive - for some reason. Maybe it was the sunshine effect of tomatoes. Surely he had painted tomatoes I thought. But only once it seems - see below on the left, and not a very Van Gogh like painting. His one-time friend Gauguin actually did a rather more Van Gogh like interpretation:

And neither are particularly summery either. Perhaps they were trying to cheer themselves up with tomatoes as well.

Mind you it's a bit difficult to cheer yourself up with tomatoes at the moment. They are so expensive. I tried to find out why but could not. Apparently back in March or April there was a massive storm in the Goulburn Valley which wiped out most of the crop there, but that was a long time ago now I would have thought and surely lots are grown elsewhere and under glass. It's a mystery. Although there is always tinned.

But I ramble. That galette is dead simple and gets over the problem of soggy bottoms with the tomatoes by covering the bottom with ricotta - and putting your tart into the oven on a super-heated oven tray. It looks gorgeous but in all honesty the recipe does not differ very strikingly from thousand of others you might find on the net and in your cookbooks. Which is maybe why it's not much copied.

So what about the other four? Well since we started with the least popular - let's go to the next least popular - a kind of cheesecake that he calls Ricotta tart.

There is no mention of the tomatoes in the title which is sort of understandable because the tomato element is made up of puréed sun-dried tomatoes, which are just spread on top near the end of cooking. I think it would probably taste a bit like Belinda Jefferey's Upside down tomato pie, although more cheese and less tomatoey., but intense tomatoey. Anyway I only found one other go at it from Grown to Cook where the author said it was 'universally liked' and that she '"will have to make it soon again." And I had to smile when she explained that it was yet another Ottolenghi recipe and that she really had to move on.

Number three is something he calls A very full tart and which is similar to another tart he created called Roast vegetable tart. The people at The Bitten Word made the full version for a vegetarian guest and said of it:

"This tart is seriously delicious. It's fully of great summer veggies, and the thyme adds a nice fresh note. The best part about this recipe, though, is its adaptability. ... It's endlessly variable. Just be aware of how long each vegetable needs to roast"

On the left my scan from the source - Plenty - one of his first cookbooks, in the centre The Bitten Word version and on the right, the rather less colourful Roast vegetable tart. Lots of other people tried this recipe to acclaim, but I have to say most of the results looked somewhat pasty and pale in comparison to the real thing. But then maybe the stylists did their thing too well.

For the winner, as it were, it's a bit of a toss up between the last two, which are rather more original. Maybe the marginal second best is a Surprise Tatin which I'm putting second because the surprise is really potatoes.

I mean who makes a Tarte Tatin with potatoes? But the tomatoes and caramelised onions lurk underneath and it's a pretty popular recipe. Lots and lots of people have had a go:

First we have - And Curiously who says of it:

"This was a fun fanfare dish for a dinner party. It’s quite fussy, so I wouldn’t make it just for normal dinner, but I knew I had to make it at least once, as a potato lover. It’s very good — buttery pastry, dense, fudgy potatoes, with a sweet tomato/caramel flavor. It’s also very time consuming, and the flip at the end is pretty scary!"

Next comes Time 2 Thrive - rather a different look, but obviously different - and larger - potatoes. I think this author is also vegan because he/she says they skipped the pastry and just used potatoes again as the last layer. They also suggested you could use feta cheese instead of the ricotta in the recipe.

Finally, Joanne Eats Well With Others has a go and I have to say her version - below, looks pretty professional - maybe even better than the official one. So what was her verdict?

"In the end, it is sweet, savory, and absolutely sumptuous. Good luck stopping at just one slice.

There were several other people who tried this and you have to say it has an Ottolenghi twist. Not only is the topping potato but there is also an actual caramel base - yes sugar is involved. But then tomatoes take to sugar and so do onions which are in the tomato layer. Yes I might give this one a go one day.

The winner, if you can really choose a winner is Tomato and almond tart mostly because this is a tart that takes its inspiration from those fruit frangipane tarts, in which sliced fruit sits on a base of an almond frangipane in a tart shell. A typical French kind of dessert tart. Here however, you are putting savoury onions on the sweet base.

The almond flavoured base is there to soak up that tomato juice, but it's not quite like the normal kind of frangipane as there are ricotta, Parmesan, garlic and breadcrumbs in there as well.

It was obviously a concept that attracted the fans, and some of them could not resist adding anchovies or olives, to the top. The first four are from Ever Open Sauce; In an Irish Home; Feed Feed and Honestly Yum, whose author says:

"The almond paste mixes with the juicy sweet tomatoes when it’s baked and oh my, it’s perfect.

I have also added in Sylvia Colloca on the delicious. website, who doesn't acknowledge Ottolenghi with her very similar Tomato and almond tart with green olive tapenade. But then maybe I'm unfair. Maybe she thought of it first - or quite independently. It certainly looks good, although the almond paste is not quite as cheesy.

But just to show that Ottolenghi is not the only person who can do interesting things with tomatoes and tarts I turned to Coles - the other end of the spectrum if you like, although I have to admit that one of these two - the Mini caprese tarts - are from Curtis Stone, who is, after all, a Michelin starred chef. The Easy antipasto tarts on the other hand are designed for the ordinary housewife with its use of off the shelf ingredients and the recipe is anonymously authored, however impressive they look. And they do - dare I say, even more impressive?

Am I cheered? Well a little bit, as I have finished another post and can tick it off my 'to do' list, which is a very trivial bit of cheer and not to be applauded. And I fear I have bored you with yet another list of Ottolenghi recipes. And it's currently almost pouring with rain as well as being dark and cold. I'm also fasting so no prospect of a delicious dinner to warm my soul. But yes I am a little cheered as there are several things I could contemplate cooking there another day even if tomatoes do currently cost just under $10.00 a kilo in the supermarket. $10.00!!! Two years ago I could buy them in the market when in season for $1.50. What has happened in the tomato growing world?

Maybe a pause before I give one of these a go. Will tomatoes ever be cheap again?


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