Full-flavoured and ripe cherry tomatoes are just hitting our shops. Of course, I could have bought them all winter, but what’s the point if they are watery and bland. Erratic though our spring warmth has been in this part of the Med, these little packets of red goodness are coming into their own, having already absorbed enough sun to make them tasty, while their larger cousins are not even off the starting blocks. These mini quiches put them centre stage. With their red, white and green vibrancy, I had to name them ‘tricolore’.
I have taken quite a shine to feta lately after having only nonchalantly tossed it into summer salads for years. We tend to get hung up on using Italian cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta and forget the versatility of feta. Sure, it can be a bit stronger than its Italian counterparts, and a bit saltier, but it crumbles, spreads and melts so easily that it’s a useful all-rounder to have in the fridge. I’ve been loving it on pizza recently too as it adds gusto if you’re opting for fewer topping items.
Tartelettes might seem more effort to roll out than a single large quiche but they are more attractive to serve if you’re using them as a starter, and small is beautiful as hand-held bites for picnics. I made these inspired by last weekend’s blazing heat here in Malta, dreaming of taking them this week to the beach. Not to be! We’re now freezing in icy temperatures having had two days of gale force 10. Wherever you are though, these little tarts with their full-flavour tomatoes and spring herb are carefree numbers that yell outdoor living – just around the corner if you’re Malta direction, I hope!
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 180ml single cream
- 200ml milk
- 150g feta cheese, cubed and a little crumbled
- cherry tomatoes – around 25 to 30
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- good handful of fresh basil
- fresh-ground black pepper
- sea salt
- grating of Parmesan
- For pastry
- 140g plain flour
- 80g polenta
- 110g unsalted cold butter, cubed
- pinch of salt
- 2-3 tbsps cold water
- Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease with butter 10-12 tartelettes tins or one large quiche tin – loose base.
- First, make the pastry, which is a regular half fat to flour shortcrust but with just under half the flour replaced with polenta. Pulse the butter and flour in food processor, then drizzle in the water slowly until the pastry binds. Tip out on a floured surface and knead lightly into a smooth ball. Flatten gently with the base of your hand, then wrap in cling film or baking paper and chill for 20 minutes.
- Prep the cherry tomatoes: wash, pat dry and lay out on a baking paper on metal baking tray. Drizzle over some olive oil, spritz with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a teaspoon of large crystal sea salt. When the oven is up to temperature, pop tomatoes in to roast for around half an hour until their skin is puckered and flesh soft and they are slightly caramelised on top. When cooked, reduce oven temp to 180°C.
- Meanwhile, beat the eggs together with the milk, cream and fresh-ground black pepper. Chop some basil and stir into the milk-egg mix. Set aside while you roll out the pastry and line the tart tins. Place tart tins on a large baking metal baking tray to make life easier placing them in the oven.
- Place around 3 tomatoes and a few cubes of feta into the pastry tart cases. Carefully ladle in the egg mix until it part covers the tomatoes but leave around 3mm space from the top of the tart cases. Crumble over some more feta and grate over some Parmesan.
- Bake for around 20-25 minutes until risen and lightly golden on top. Remove, leave on baking tray for a minute or two then place individual tarts on a wire cooling rack. When cool enough, turn out of their tins.
- Serve hot, warm or cooled completely. Garnish with some fresh basil or rocket. Perfect with a crispy green salad as a light lunch or starter. Lovely reheated next day, and ideal picnic food too.