I bought a huge punnet of nectarines this week. One of those punnets that is designed to ‘ripen in the fruit bowl’, which sounds, when you’re in the cold aisle of a supermarket, like a dream: you will have soft fruit gradually ripening as the week progresses, for you to pluck at whim, your kitchen gently scented by the heady, sweet, honeyed perfume. Imagine Eden with formica kitchen units, and you’re approaching what I envisaged in the fruit aisle.
The reality, of course, is that your stone fruit sit in the fruit bowl, harder than, well, stone, for six days, and then suddenly ripen so quickly that you have to use a whole pile of nectarines quick-smart, or suffer not only a heap of wrinkly, sad fruit-ghosts, but also the ignominy of your smug, thrifty purchase being chucked onto the compost heap.
A long story short, come Tuesday, I had a lot of nectarines to eat. So, I made this tart. It’s terribly low on effort, but draws out the sweet-tartness of the nectarines, the slight sour creaminess of the goat’s cheese, and the low level spice of the beetroot (use sweetfire beetroots if you can find them). It’s fresh and interesting and very much more than the sweet-savoury sum of its parts: it’s fixed itself firmly in my summer supper repertoire. One day I might even make it without a nectarine crisis on my hands.
The pickled shallots pull the whole thing together: I’m obsessed with these shallots: I put them on everything at the moment. This recipe makes more pickled shallots that you need, but they will be good for a week or two, kept in the fridge in a sealed jar, but they won’t last that long once you’re tried them. I’ve put them on just about every salad, sandwich or pate I’ve eaten in the last fortnight. They can be made as little as 30 minutes before you need them, or as far as a week.
Don’t worry if the tart seems dry when it comes out of the oven: the fruits have been cooked for just long enough to give up their juices when you cut into them, and because the pickled shallots go on last and raw, you’re effectively dressing the tart with the juices.
It goes like this:
Nectarine, Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese tart (with sweet pickled shallots)
Makes: 6 large slabs
Takes: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes’ pickling time
Bakes: 25 minutes
1 sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
3 beetroot (or 4 small sweetfire beetroot)
100g soft goat’s cheese
1 egg, beaten
For the pickled shallots
2 echalion (large) shallots
1 teaspoon coarse seasalt
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
120ml cider vinegar
1. First, pickle the shallots. Slice the shallots finely length-ways. Place them in a small jam jar; tip in the sea salt, the sugar, and the vinegar. Put the lid on the jar (make sure it’s on tightly!) and shake gently. Leave at room temperature until needed.
2. Preheat the oven to 180. Spread out the pastry on greaseproof paper (a lot come ready rolled onto greaseproof; check the packaging). Score a 2cm border around the pastry and generously prick within that border with a fork. Brush the border with beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes until golden and risen. The middle will probably have risen so press this down gently or place a smaller baking tray over the middle to flatten.
2. Cut the nectarine and beetroot into slender slices, and scatter across the pastry. Tear the goat’s cheese into small pieces and place evenly across the pastry. Try to avoid any completely uncovered areas of pastry. Bake for a further ten minutes until the goat’s cheese is melted and golden. Dress the tart with the pickled shallots, and serve immediately.
3. Ta Dah!
Icing on the Cake
We ate this hot with huge piles of rocket salad with a mustard dressing, and then the next night, cold, with mayonnaise. If you’re having it cold, this would make fantastic picnic food, and, because it isn’t too wet, is very transportable, cut into slabs and piled up on top of one another in tupperware or foil.