Rachel Allen was brought up in Dublin and left home at eighteen to study at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School. Rachel is now a busy ...
for the shortcrust pastry tart case:
200 g (7oz) plain flour
100 g (31/2oz) chilled butter, diced
pinch of salt
1/2–1 egg, beaten
for the filling:
10 ripe tomatoes, halved widthways
2 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
25 g (1oz) butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
200 ml (7fl oz) double or regular cream
2 tblsp torn or sliced basil
150 g (5oz) cheddar cheese, grated
23cm (9in) diameter, fluted, loose-bottomed tart tin with 2cm (3/4in) sides
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add half the beaten egg and, using your hands, bring the dough together, adding a little more egg if it is too dry to come together.
If you are making the pastry in a food processor, sift in the flour and salt and add the butter. Whiz for a few seconds, then add half the beaten egg and continue to whiz for just a few more seconds until it comes together. You might need to add a little more egg, but don’t add too much – it should just come together. Don’t over-process the pastry or it will be tough and heavy. Reserve the remaining beaten egg for brushing over the finished pastry.
Without kneading the dough, carefully shape it into a round, 1–2cm (1/2–3/4in) thick, using your hands to flatten it. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge to chill for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4.
Take the pastry out of the fridge and place it between two sheets of cling film (each bigger than your tart tin). Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry to about 3mm (1/8in) thick. Make sure to keep it in a round shape and large enough to line the base and sides of the tin.
Removing just the top layer of cling film, place the pastry upside down (cling-film side facing up) in the tart tin. (There’s no need to flour or grease the tin.) Press the pastry into the edges of the tin, with the cling film still attached to the dough, and using your thumb ‘cut’ the pastry along the edge of the tin for a neat finish. If there are any holes or gaps in the pastry, simply patch them up with some of your spare pieces of dough.
Remove the cling film and chill the pastry in the fridge for 15 minutes or in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Remove the pastry from the fridge or freezer and line with greaseproof paper or baking parchment, leaving plenty of paper to come up over the sides. Fill the lined tart case with baking beans or dried pulses (you can use these over and over again), and bake ‘blind’ for 20–25 minutes or until the pastry feels just dry to the touch on the base.
Remove the paper and beans, brush with a little of the remaining beaten egg and return to the oven for 3 minutes. Again, if there are any little holes or cracks in the pastry, patch them up with any leftover raw pastry before returning to the oven, so that the filling doesn’t leak out during cooking. Once the pastry has been baked blind, take it out of the oven and set aside in the tin while you make the filling.
For the filling, place the tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until completely softened and a little browned around the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, place a frying pan on a medium heat and add the butter. When melted and foaming, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream and season with salt and pepper.
Spread out the fried onion pieces in a layer in the blind-baked tart case. Top with two-thirds of the cheese, then arrange the cooked tomato halves on top. Next pour in the egg mixture and top with the remaining cheese. Place in the oven and bake for 30–40 minutes or until golden brown on top and just set in the centre.