While I completely welcome, luxuriate in, and devote a lot of time to generating the puddings and soups and casseroles that Winter brings...sometimes it's nice to interrupt all that, suspend the stodge-production and create something altogether more Spring-like and vegetable-focussed.
Although these are essentially just small pies, their unusual, sesame-studded pastry is light and crisp, and their filling has soft, caramelised vegetables contending with salty, fragrant miso. And I managed to make them while feeling physically dilapidated by a cold, which makes me think that they're not that fiddly to make, either. (I've still got this cough, by the way, but I think as far as the battle goes I'm now winning.)
I found the recipe in the latest CLEO magazine (who, I should add, have been very good to me over the last year or so, if you see my "Attention" tab up the top there) and it's by a clever lady called Janella Purcell who has a cookbook called Eating For The Seasons. Which, judging by this one excellent recipe, is probably a really good book. Despite what looks like Mistral font used on the cover.
The pastry is gluten-free, which is fun, especially if you can't eat gluten yourself. I'm pretty sure that these are also vegan, so if you're wondering what it is that's even holding them together...read on.
Roast Vegetable Sesame Tarts
Adapted from a recipe by Janella Purcell, found in the July issue of CLEO magazine.
1 1/2 cups brown rice flour, or spelt flour, or whatever flour you've got really - even regular flour (which, I hope I don't have to spell out to you, will mean these are no longer gluten-free)
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted if you have the energy (I didn't)
2 tablespoons olive, rice bran or avocado oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari sauce
3/4 cup boiling water
Combine the flour and sesame seeds in a bowl. Tip in the oils, the water, and the soy sauce and mix together. Knead well till it forms a soft ball, then rest for 30 minutes while you get on with everything else.
1 onion, finely sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 tablespoon white miso paste
Toasted seeds to garnish - pumpkin, sunflower, or just more sesame seeds if you like. Pine nuts or almonds would be nice too, but seeds are less expensive and just as delicious.
Heat the olive oil in a pan and slowly cook the onions till caramelised. While this is happening, roast the vegetables on a tray at 200 C/400 F for about 20 minutes.
Once your onions are cooked, but while your veges are still roasting, roll out the pastry fairly thinly and use a cookie cutter or similar (I used one of those ramekins that you might make creme brulee in) to stamp out circles of pastry. It's a little different to the usual - quite springy and playdough-y, and you'll need to re-roll it a couple of times. Just bear with it though, it will work. Fit your circles of pastry into a greased and floured/silicon muffin tray, not worrying if you get folds of pastry, it's all good if it looks a bit ramshackle - and bake them, as is, for 15 minutes.
Once the cases are out of the oven, dab a tiny bit of miso paste on the inside of each, then top with your roast vegetables and a sprinkling of toasted seeds. They should remove easily from the muffin tray - and then eat!
Note - I made the following changes:
- Halved the recipe (so you can easily double what's above)
- Used spelt flour instead of brown rice flour, as that's what I had
- You're supposed to use all sesame oil in the pastry but as it's expensive and precious I cut it back and replaced some with other oil, but you do as you like
- I only had black sesame seeds, but it's all good
- Used soy sauce instead of Tamari as that's what I had
- Changed the vegetables a little - the original recipe didn't have fennel and had pumkin instead of kumara
- I think that's it. One other thing to note is that different flours absorb water at a different rate so don't be afraid to add more flour if your pastry dough is a sticky mess, or more liquid if it's not coming together. Just a little at a time though.
So as you can see I adapted this recipe quite a bit, and I think you could continue to do so yourself. Once you've got the pastry cases sorted, it's really all a matter of what's in your fridge.
For example, the following could be delicious...
- Roast capsicums and tomatoes, with toasted chopped almonds and a little orange zest
- Sliced leeks, softened and caramelised in a pan, with feta
- Roast mushrooms with thyme, then chop them up, fill the tarts and top with pumpkin seeds
- Roasted zucchini with capers
- Raw grated beetroot, coriander leaves and toasted walnuts
- Slices of avocado and raw zucchini, topped with mint...
- Mince and cheese! Yay. Or, like, slow-braised beef ragu and parmesan.
I'm also thinking about removing the soy sauce from the pastry, using a plain oil, and filling the cooked cases with sweet things instead, like berries, or chocolate mousse, or - best of all - nuts and caramel sauce. And beyond that, I'm also wondering if you could just roll out the pastry and stamp out and bake awesome crackers from it.
But all those imaginary tarts aside, how did the actual ones that I made taste?
So delicious. The pastry is all nutty and biscuity, and just a tiny bit salty - a very addictive combination. I personally am glad I added the fennel, its aniseedy freshness and quick-to-caramelise, oniony structure was quite lush against the sweeter softer kumara. And they taste really, really good cold as well, to the point where I was wishing I hadn't halved the original recipe. Twelve mini tarts between Tim and myself just wasn't enough.
Hooray for pie!_________________________________________________________
Title via: The Ramones, and the song really is called Every Time I Eat Vegetables I Think Of You. I love them (the Ramones, but also vegetables.)
Ella Fitzgerald, When I Get Low I Get High. I think partly because of its compelling Puttin' On The Ritz style fast swing, Fitzgerald's gorgeous voice, and partly the fact that it's just so short, is why I would've listened to this song roughly a squillion times over the last week or two.
Matthew and Son by Cat Stevens, I've said it before but I love this song so much that it's always worth repeating: oh my gosh I love this song so much. The video (if you click through) is also quite incredible. His shoulder-pumping dance, the strangely bland and unaffected expressions on the young people's faces, the bit around 1.55 where he stares down into the camera while singing *fans self*
Next time: Billy Crudup's Grandma's Chocolate Fudge Pie. It's wild.