Not so long ago my favourite local patisserie closed down leaving me with a new dilemma. Where to source puff pastry for my home-made tarts and sausage rolls. Many years ago I accidentally discovered (whilst unashamedly eavesdropping on another customer’s conversation) that it was possible, with a smile and a few kind words, to buy freshly made puff pastry directly from the patisserie. All that was required was twenty four hours notice. For some-one who truly struggles to make a beautifully light and flaky puff pastry that gem of information was priceless. Of course there are many commercial offerings of puff pastry available in the freezer section of the supermarket but my patisserie sourced puff pastry really was exceptional and a cut above the rest.
And so my little secret is out. Whilst I’m very adept at pulling together sweet and savoury short crust pastry, courtesy of a quick pulse in the food processor and decent resting in the fridge, the vagaries of producing a delicate puff pastry are quite beyond me. That said Stephanie Alexander has a decent rough puff pastry recipe which I have used with reasonable success, but I no longer possess the inclination to make real puff pastry from scratch. Recently, whilst trawling the supermarket aisles for inspiration I came across a gorgeously packaged all butter puff pastry by Carême Traditional Pastry in the Barossa Valley. Hand-made, it was a little pricier than its competitors but I thought it would be worth giving it a go. At least once.
It’s late summer and there’s a mountain of zucchinis sitting on my kitchen bench. With my new found packet of puff pastry in hand I’m keen to convert them into a luscious zucchini tart flavoured with chilli, lemon, mint and feta. Sadly neglected since the closure of my local patisserie, this recipe had been a staple on our summer dinner table for many years. It’s light and moreish with a crisp, golden and flaky base. Perfect fare for a warm summer evening and very quick and easy to prepare requiring just a little assembly and a blast in a hot oven. Here’s how.
Buy the very best butter puff pastry you can find and slice zucchini into long thin ribbons. Marinate the zucchini ribbons in a mixture of olive oil chilli and lemon. Set aside to allow the zucchini to soften and flavours meld.
Half an hour or so before dinner is to be served drain the zucchini, reserving the marinade for the feta and artfully drape the ribbons over scored, docked and egg washed pastry bases. Bake in a very hot oven until the pastry is crisp, puffed and golden.
Marinate the feta while the tarts are baking. Allow the tarts to cool a little and scatter feta and mint over the tarts. As you can see from the photos the puff pastry was a triumph. Light, crisp and flaky. The perfect foil for the soft, silky zucchini.
Zucchini Tart With Chilli, Lemon, Mint And Feta
1 x 375 g sheet puff pastry, thawed (I used Câreme Butter Puff Pastry)
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 medium zucchini
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100g feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely shredded
sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
PREHEAT oven to 220 C and line an oven tray with baking paper.
UNROLL the pastry sheet and slice in half into two equal sized rectangles.
PLACE the pastry rectangles onto the prepared baking tray. Using a sharp knife gently score a border 2 cm from the edge, being careful not to cut through the pastry.
USING a pastry brush carefully brush the border with egg wash. Using a fork dock (prick) the centre of the pastry all over, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required.
MEANWHILE using a mandolin or very sharp knife slice the zucchini lengthways into long, thin ribbons.
IN A medium bowl combine sliced zucchini, chilli flakes, lemon juice, zest and olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes.
REMOVE pastry base from the refrigerator. Drain the zucchini slices, reserving the marinade for the feta cheese.
ARRANGE the now softened zucchini ribbons in overlapping rows over the puff pastry bases.
PLACE tarts in hot 220 C oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 170 C and continue baking for a further 20 to 25 minutes or until the base of the pastry is golden and crisp.
ALLOW to cool a little.
WHILE the tarts are baking, combine the crumbled feta with mint and three tablespoons of the reserved marinade. Toss well to combine.
SCATTER the feta mixture evenly over the warm tarts and serve immediately.