By now you’re probably thinking “errr… what’s the deal with this guy and aubergines?”. I’ll admit it, I’m sponsored by auberinges. They called me up from their field based HQ and asked if I could write about them endlessly. In return I get sod all, because they’re a bunch of plants, have no currency nor do they possess suitable ID to open a bank account to store or transfer money. They even asked me for exclusivity rights to break up talks with the poddington peas about a mutual tie-in. Ok, maybe that’s all fantasy. Maybe.
In reality, I just like aubergines, they represent something very summery to me. So on those rare occasions that the weather turns the temperature up slightly, casting sunlight towards us and beaming a gentle, welcoming smile upon our faces, I cook aubergines. I’ve extolled their virtues for quite some time in dishes such as baba ghanoush and recently my chargrilled aubergine bites. They’re just a great vehicle for flavour, an articulated lorry of an ingredient, asking to be loaded up to the roof with your finest produce and consumed.
Today’s recipe has three stages which can be either long winded, or relatively straightforward. First, you have the puff pastry, which you can either make, using my spelt rough puff pastry recipe or buy ready made puff pastry from the shop. Secondly, you need pesto, which can also be made using my traditional Italian pesto recipe, or you can just pick up a jar with your shopping. The aubergines are the only part where there’s no shortcut, but at least you have three levels of speed for the whole recipe, depending on your time or disposition.
A quick note; if you go the full homemade route, here’s the most effective way to make it. Start with the pastry first, as this takes longest and requires several rest periods. Then start preparing and cooking the aubergine once the pastry is having it’s first rest in the fridge. In between doing these other two things you can make the pesto, as that’s the easiest part that doesn’t require constant attention, so you can fit it between the other tasks, or just do it when the aubergine is all cooked. By doing it this way you’ll squeeze it all into the shortest time possible. Alternatively, like me, you can make a batch of pesto the night before and have some of it for dinner, then use the rest on the tart the next day.
Last thing, I promise!When you make the base of the tart, don’t throw the pastry offcuts away, just quickly wrap them and put them back in the fridge.
When your tart is in the oven, roll the remaining bits of pastry out into a rough square 2-3mm thick, about 15-20cm long, the width just needs to be whatever you can make it from the available pastry. Coat the top with cinnamon and cover it liberally with demerara sugar, using the rolling pin to press it in. Roll the pastry up tightly, like a swiss roll, then slice into 1cm thick rounds. Lay these out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and squish them down slightly. You can also sprinkle a bit more sugar on at this stage. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes and you will have some superbly tasty palmier biscuits!
Pesto aubergine tart
By Gavin Wren
Uses a griddle pan and a baking sheet
Heat a grill/griddle pan over a medium heat and slice the aubergines into 1cm thick rounds. Brush lightly with olive oil on both sides and cook them for a few minutes each side in batches, so that they have char marks on both sides. When cooked, transfer to a bowl covered with cling film.
Roll the pastry out into a square slightly larger than a dinner plate, to a thickness of about 3-5mm (a £1 coin is 3mm thick). Lightly place a dinner plate on top, upside down, and cut around the edge of the plate, removing the excess pastry and the plate once cut.
Place the round of pastry onto a piece of baking paper, then spread the top with 120g pesto, leaving a 1cm border at the very edge. Place the cooked aubergine slices on top in circles, starting from the outside, moving in. Use the larger slices in the outer ring, saving the smallest for the inner ring.
Slide the tart, whilst still on the baking paper onto the heated baking sheet from the oven. Place in the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes until lightly browned.
Remove from oven and eat!