sunburnt red pepper tart

9 Apr

Hello, trite simile. Welcome, the winner of the most banal food poetry prize:

My dinner looks like a sunset.

An oversized scalloped sun, coloured a glorious orange – more than orange, a saffron-stained red. Seriously. It didn’t matter if I ate it or not, I could just admire it. I couldn’t draw it, the colour was too intense.

Once I did finally taste it though, the flavour matched the colour perfectly. The deep red, the charred sweetness of roasted peppers was just slightly muted by the sour creamy bite of creme fraiche. The flecks of basil and nutmeg added a little intrigue. The pastry stayed crisp and perky in its scalloped pan. But most of all, the smooth custard filling – like quiche, but better – tasted of enhanced roasted peppers and of distilled colour.

Make it just for the visual effect – one giant sunny tart next to a bowl of green leaves, a mess of grated carrot salad, a nutty brown crust of bread.

sunburnt red pepper tart
(adapted from Roast chicken and other stories by Simon Hopkinson)

serves 3-4 people as a light supper

pastry
110g plain flour
50g butter, cold, cubed
1 egg yolk
some water

filling
4 large red peppers
150ml creme fraiche
2 eggs and 1 egg white
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
dash of dried basil

Make the pastry: rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and several spoonfuls of water and stir roughly with a knife until the doughs starts to come together. Push it into a ball with your hands – adding more water if necessary. (This can be done in a food processor, of course.) Try to handle it as little as possible. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for half an hour.

Now roast the peppers: place the whole peppers on a lightly oiled baking tray, to prevent sticking, and bake in a very hot oven (250C) for half an hour or so. They should be just starting to collapse with a few black spots. Then put them in a large bowl and cover tightly with clingfilm. The steam will make it easier to skin the peppers. Gently prise each pepper in half with a knife and your fingers, and pull out the stalk with the seeds attached. If you can be bothered, you can also skin the peppers.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry dough to fit a 20cm tart pan. Without a rolling pin, I like to roll the pastry between two sheets of baking paper with an empty wine bottle. Arrange in the tart dish, prick the bottom and bake for about 20 minutes at 180C until just golden-brown.

Drain any liquid from the roasted peppers then blend them with the remaining eggs and egg white and the creme fraiche until smooth. Add the nutmeg, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Pour the pepper filling into the prebaked tart shell and put back in the oven for 30 minutes. (There will be some filling left over which you can bake separately in a little dish sans crust.)

When the tart is firm to the touch and just starting to crack, remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes or so. Serve with something green for colour contrast.

Notes: The original recipe – which looked much richer – used 6 egg yolks instead of 2 eggs and 1 white and double cream instead of creme fraiche. I also forgot the clove of garlic which was supposed to be blended into the filling.

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