spinach and ricotta tart I made a few months back. At the time, I cut it into slices and froze it, which made a great standby lunch or dinner. I went to retrieve a slice recently and found it was all gone. I’d enjoyed it so much that I decided to bake another one, only adapting it slightly to incorporate some of my other favourite flavours.
I’ve always enjoyed making my own pastry but it used to hold a slight fear that it would shrink on baking. However, since having to go gluten free, this is no longer a problem. As there is no gluten in gluten free flour (how surprising) to overwork, this means no fear of shrinkage when baked. Gluten free pastry is very easy to work with and actually benefits from a gentle kneading like you would a bread dough. The resulting pastry is silky smooth and results in a crisp pastry that is light in both colour and texture and one I actually prefer to the old regular pastry.
Anyway, back to the tart. I think of ricotta as a very Italian cheese, with green, white and red being the colours of the Italian flag. As I went down a green spinach route last time, I decided to go red by incorporating tomatoes, which resulted in a beautifully blushing red coloured tart.
Ricotta is very light, soft and milky which results in a wonderfully light and fresh tasting tart. I used tinned tomatoes and a generous spoonful of sun dried tomato paste (not to be confused with tomato puree) for a bright bold tomato flavour. I also added some mushrooms which I lightly fried with garlic and thyme along with a few asparagus spears that I had left over the previous nights dinner.
Once baked all the flavours tasted wonderfully together, tomato, garlic, mushroom, thyme, asparagus, balsamic vinegar and the softly set ricotta held in a crisp pastry crust. Delicious. You could use whatever filling you liked for the tart. It’s a sort of lighter version of a quiche.
After making the tart I had a little leftover pastry and so make a few jam and berry tarts, which bought back fond memories of my childhood, when I used to help my mother and grandmother make apple pies. Making jam tarts with the scraps of leftover pastry were always a treat.
Tomato Ricotta Tart
Gluten Free Pastry
225g gluten free flour mix (I used 100g white rice flour, 80g potato flour, 50g white teff flour)
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp cold water
Tomato Ricotta Filling
4 spring onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 chestnut mushrooms
8 asparagus spears
100g (½ small tin) chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste (not tomato puree)
250g ricotta cheese
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Method - Pastry
Mix all the flours and the xanthan gum together in a bowl to combine.
Make sure you butter is soft, if not blast it in the microwave for a few seconds. Add to a seperate mixing bowl along with half the flour mixture, the egg and water. Beat with a spoon or spatula to form a paste. (Yes I know this goes against all traditional pastry making!) Add the rest of the flour and bring the mixture together to form a dough, switching to your hands at the end. Knead the dough gently for 1 minute to ensure everything is well combined.
Roll out the pastry between two large sheets of clingfilm to the size and shape of your tart tin, plus an extra 1-2 inches for the sides.
Peel off the top sheet of clingfilm, and use the base sheet to help you flip the pastry into the tin and press it down gently. Trim off the excess. Patch up any cracks with the off-cuts of pastry.
Place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
Tomato Ricotta Filling
Slice the mushrooms, heat the oil in a frying pan, and gently fry the mushrooms until beginning to brown. Crush the garlic and add it to the mushrooms along with the spring onions and the leaves from the fresh thyme. Cook until the mushrooms are golden brown. Slice the asparagus in half and add to the pan at the last minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and balsamic vinegar to the pan and allow to bubble away until any excess liquid has evaporated and you have quite a thick intense tomato mixture left. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and stir through the ricotta cheese. Lightly beat the eggs and beat them in too.
Spread the filling into the chilled pastry case and bake for 30 minutes until set, slightly puffed and the pastry is lightly golden brown.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and serving.
Tastes great warm or cold the next day when it goes more quiche-like. Also freezes well in slices.
Makes 1 x 8inch/20cm tart
Bennelong, Sydney Opera House
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