We are really pushing the dining al fresco thing to its limits but the weather has been so dry its a shame not to enjoy it, so who cares about the cold - the blankets were out this afternoon but the chill in the air did not seem to bother anyone!
I made a tomato, cheddar and thyme tart with some ready-made puff pastry and it was a colourful and tasty light lunch for three.
I make a mushroom, Parmesan and creme fraiche in puff pastry quite often which is delicious with a glass of beer but this recipe comes from Dianne Henry in her new book, Food for Plenty. I had a lot of strong cheddar, Hegarty's from Cork in the fridge and this added the perfect sharp taste to the tart and although she only suggests using 1 clove of garlic, I use three and also add the thyme to the Mascarpone as well as sprinkled over the top. It takes about 5 minutes to assemble and is a really pretty addition to any table.
Today I made 2 x 23" tarts but as she suggests, you could make 1 large tart with the entire pastry roll.
For 2 tarts which served 3-4 for lunch:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
1 x 500g packet ready-made puff pastry
10 plum tomatoes, tops removed, main fruit finely sliced
3 cloves garlic
1 250g tub Mascarpone cheese
150g finely grated strong cheddar
6 springs fresh thyme leaves, 3 de-leaved, 3 spring left whole
Roll out the pastry and using a circular cake/flan tin as a cutter, cut out. Alternatively or additionally line a quiche tin with pastry.
Combine the Mascarpone, cheddar and thyme leaves in a bowl. Spread over the base of the puff pastry staying about 5 cm back from the edges if baking on a flat baking sheet and not in the quiche dish.
Arrange the finely sliced tomatoes in concentric circles starting at the outside edge of the pastry and working your way in towards the centre, finally placing one tomato slice in the middle. Season the top of the tart well with freshle milled black pepper and sea salt.
Place in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160 degrees and cook for a further 30 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and have caramelised slightly.
Tip: I have also made this using some leftover shortcrust pastry which is also a good substitute to puff, although I would not advise using a commercial ready-made shortcrust as it is not half as good as the home-made variety.