"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tarty Tuesdays: Soufflé Tomato Tart

Savoury tartas, tarts, are popular in Buenos Aires, where I was born.  Every cook has his or her own versions of the tart (my mother’s was an onion one to go on bended knee for) and no wonder:  a tart can be posh, a tart can be homely, a tart can use just about anything in the pantry, ‘fridge or freezer, and a tart can be one of the quickest things to put together, particularly if you pick up a packet of pastry discos from the cold case at the supermarket.

But most of all, a tart is simple.  It has just three components, so repeat them after me, and remember them, because while there will be recipes here and elsewhere, a savoury tart is something you don’t need a recipe for:

- Base
- Filling
- Binding for the filling

The base is easy.  It can be pastry, bought or homemade, but it can also be thin slices of sturdy vegetables like fried eggplant, or a cooked rice crust, or just about anything you can think of that will hold a filling.

The filling is the main flavour of your tart.  What’s in the pantry?  A tin of tuna?  Sauté an onion, add that sucker to the pan with some chopped pimento, pepper, and paprika, and you have a classic.  What’s in the vegetable crisper?  Zucchini?  Fry them up with onion and oregano, and layer them with mozzarella over the base.  Leftovers in the ‘fridge?  Chop them up and mix them with your binding with additional seasonings and maybe some cheese, and diners won’t know that you’re showing them a rerun.

The binding is also easy although sorry, vegan friends, to get a filling that will hold together properly when cut, you need egg.  And sure not all fillings are meant to hold together, but when they’re not, I suggest a pie, instead.  Beaten egg - you don't need many, just two or three - can be poured over the filling, or you can beat those eggs together with milk or cream for a wobblier, more custardy filling.  That same filling will become feather light if, like in this recipe, you beat the egg whites first.

So give a tart a try.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Your filling won’t set?  Give everyone your best, most dazzling smile, and a spoon.

In the meantime, though, here is a recipe for one of our favourites:  soufflé tomato tart.  It smells, looks, and tastes divine, for very little effort.  The only caveat is that it is so simple that for it to be divine you must make it with beautiful ripe tomatoes that actually smell and taste like proper tomatoes.  I found these gorgeous little things at my local greengrocer and actually came to a screeching halt in front of them because smack in the middle of our southern hemisphere winter on a howling cold day, they smelt like summer.  I rushed them home and put the tart together in about half an hour, homemade pastry included, and we were eating it about half an hour after that.

Perfect 'matas


Pastry to line tart/flan pan, bought or homemade (see below for Fatima’s ready-in-two-minutes crust)
1 kg. gorgeous ripe tomatoes, or as many as you need for the inside of your pan
1 cup proper egg mayonnaise or cream
3 eggs, separated
200g. cheddar (white cheddar in the US) or Swiss cheese, grated
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs (opt.)

What you do:
1.  Preheat oven to 180oC.  Line tart/flan pan with pastry and allow to rest while making filling.  (If making Fatima’s crust, make it and line the pan with it before beating egg whites.  It’s best made just before baking.)
2.  Halve tomatoes if small, or quarter them if large.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.
3.  To make filling, beat egg yolks with mayonnaise or cream.  Mix in cheeses, and salt and pepper to taste.  Beat egg whites until stiff, and fold into egg yolk mixture.
4.  Pour filling into pastry.  If using halved tomatoes, arrange them on the filling cut side down, and if using quartered tomatoes, arrange them prettily cut side up.  Sprinkle with chopped or torn herbs if using.  Bake for 35 min., or until set, risen and golden.  Serve hot (although cold leftovers for lunch the next day are FABULOUS).

This is Fatima's easy crust, below.  I made it with
wholewheat flour, which made the guilt over all that cream,
cheese and egg yolks almost nonexistent.  My tart pan is
actually massive (I made 1 1/2 times the filling) and this
amount of pastry just lines it, hence no fancy crimping.

It's important to salt the tomatoes just before making
the filling, otherwise the salt will draw out too much of
the tomatoes' juices, making the filling sloppy.

This filling includes a couple of whole eggs because
I had some extra egg whites that needed using.

Repeat after me:  no Kraft!

Folding egg whites in will ensure soufflé success.

Sprinkled with fresh basil and ready to go in the oven.

The item in question.
Yumbo McGillicutty!

You can omit the baking powder, if you like, and use soda water instead of ordinary water for lightness.

2 cups flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water

What you do:
1.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.  Add wet ingredients and stir to form a ball.  Place ball of pastry on your pan, and spread out with your hands and fingers to cover the base and come up the sides.  (You can roll this pastry out, but I find it a bit of a pain unless it’s between two pieces of baking paper.) 

Unless there's Company, I don't bother with greasing my
pans and just spread a sheet of nonstick baking paper over
my pan before spreading it out with my fingers.
This batch was made with wholewheat flour.


  1. I just put this on the menu for dinner tonight. I love that you are an ingredient snob "proper egg" mayonnaise and real cheese are the only way to cook and eat.

  2. Awesome! Let me know how it works out.

    I'm a bit of a snob about all kinds of things foodie, much to my daughter's chagrin (or delight, when she makes fun of me), although my point is it doesn't need to be an expensive "gourmet" item, it just has to be good.


So! Whaddya reckon?