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June 24, 2013

but without songs we're lost | beetroot and balsamic tart

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Where did June go? It seems like those weeks before the solstice dragged, and just when I thought the middle of winter was never going to come, it disappeared into days with familiar routines and rhythms. There's not much to report - it's been cold, days have passed, and cooking at Maitland has been feeling a little uninspired - at least, from my perspective it has. We've been eating lots of soup: spiced carrot, jerusalem artichoke, french onion, potato, leek and kale..

Sometimes at this time of year, I find myself getting a bit sick of soups. Most of the time, though, I'm a soup fan - I spent a good amount of time in a previous flat making soup for flat dinners despite 3/6 of my flatmates not believing soup to be a 'proper meal'. Speaking of 'proper meals', I recently invited a friend over for dinner with this text: "I'm making porridge for dinner, do you want some?". He arrived at Maitland about 45 minutes later and the first thing he said was "Are you actually making porridge?" I  was.

Beetroot is one of those polarising vegetables - people seem to either love it or hate it. Growing up, we didn't eat much beetroot and so it wasn't until a friend cooked beetroot soup for me one night - made simply with beetroot, red wine and onions, and eaten with feta cheese, I realised how much I'd underrated it as a vegetable. Beetroot is now an autumn and winter staple in our kitchen. We make soup with it, roast it, or use it in risottos. There's something about the purple colour that I find myself craving. I've also made roast beetroot hummus (delicious), and beetroot bread (a hot pink mess) and I'm yet to try making beetroot brownies (a Hugh recipe, of course) ... but one day soon!

However, one of the nicest ways to enjoy beetroot is to make a simple tart - this would be the perfect dish to take to a fancy pot luck, or if you want to have a slightly more special dinner with minimal extra effort. It's also based on a Hugh recipe - the man is a genius, after all.

beetroot & balsamic tart

beetroot - either 3 large ones or a bunch of baby ones
3-5 cloves of garlic
about 20g butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pastry - you can either make this yourself (not as hard as it seems), or if you're pushed for time, use pre-made puff pastry. We've made this both ways - either way tastes delicious. 
2 shallots
a few parsley leaves
lemon juice
olive oil
1 tsp mustard - preferably the seedy kind.

Halve the beetroot, or cut into small-ish pieces if you're using big beetroot. Heat the butter in a pan, and add the beetroot. Let the pan get quite hot before you add the balsamic vinegar. Cook on a medium heat for about 30 minutes, covered. It will smell delicious. When it's ready, the beetroot will be softer and shiny, and there will be a small amount of dark purple, syrupy liquid.

While the beetroot is cooking, roll out your pastry until it's the size of the oven proof container you'll cook this in. You want to have enough beetroot and pastry to cover the bottom of this container in a single layer of beetroot - not too crowded, but not too spread out.

When the beetroot is ready, place them cut side up (if you've halved baby beetroot) in the dish. Pour the syrup over them too. Lay the pastry over the beetroot - tuck this in at the sides. Bake for about 20 minutes at 200ÂșC, until the pastry is golden and puffy.

While the tart is cooking, make the dressing. It's not strictly necessary, but if you've got the ingredients you won't regret making it. Chop up the shallots and parsley leaves, and mix these with the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, invert the tart onto a plate (be careful doing this, I nearly dropped a whole one onto the floor once!). Pour over any remaining beetroot juice, and serve with the dressing and some feta cheese if you like.

This would make a good lunch by itself - we've eaten this with salads from the garden, left over risotto, and on one memorable occasion, multiple other tarts including one with tomato, goats cheese, and thyme - back when tomatoes were in season.

Stay tuned - our fridge is currently stocked with several bottles of unpasteurised milk (Hi, Dad!), soon to be made into haloumi.. so next time you might hear some cheesemaking stories..

  title from irresponsible tune - the dirty projectors

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