A neighbour who is renowned for her superb aubergine tart kindly submitted to pressure to reveal her secrets in an informal cookery lesson, held outdoors on a sunny day. We produced five magnificent tarts, which were shared along with glasses of chilled rosé. I will happily make these for guests, as a substantial starter or light main course.
Beyond the aubergines and tomato sauce, you can vary the other ingredients according to taste and whether you need it to be vegetarian. We used combinations of chopped black olives, chorizo, and anchovies. I think blobs of onion confit or pesto could be good as well. For the cheese, we used slices of a log of goat’s cheese. But you could substitute other soft cheeses: feta, mozzarella, sheep’s cheese …
Other ingredient notes: Sandrine recommends white aubergines; she thinks they are sweeter and more tender. She normally uses her own home-made passata for the tomato sauce, but you can use bought passata or pasta sauce instead. Likewise, for the pastry, either make shortcrust or buy it ready-made. Don’t use puff pastry though, it is too fatty for this recipe.
For one tart:
One round of shortcrust pastry, enough for a 22-24 cm tart tin
2 large aubergines or 3 medium ones
About 6 tbs tomato pasta sauce or passata
1/2 a log of goat’s cheese, or other soft cheese of your choice
Other garnishes: diced chorizo, chopped stoned olives, anchovy fillets
Trim the ends of the aubergines and slice lengthways into fairly thick slices (about 0.5 cm). Spread out, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside while you heat a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy frying pan (or use a paella pan as we did). Fry the sliced aubergines over a fairly high heat — don’t overcrowd the pan, so do them in batches if necessary, adding more oil as required.
The aubergines need to be thoroughly browned on both sides, verging on burnt. They won’t be cooked much more afterwards. As they are done, lay out to drain and cool on kitchen paper. Line your tart tin with baking parchment and preheat the oven to 200C.
Once the aubergines are cool enough to handle, choose one of the rounder slices from the edge of the aubergine for the centre of your design and place it in the centre of the tin. Handling them carefully with tongs or your fingers, use the longer slices to form the petals around the centre, overlapping neatly and generously so that there are no gaps.
Now use a spoon to spread the tomato sauce evenly over the aubergine slices. Add any other garnish you are using: chopped olives, chorizo, anchovies in any combination. Slice the cheese thinly (2-3 mm) and arrange the slices over the entire surface. Roll out the pastry, if it isn’t ready rolled. Cover the tart with it, trimming to slightly larger than the tin if necessary, and tuck the edges down inside the rim of the tin. Stab all over with the point of a knife.
Bake for about 20 minutes till the pastry is cooked and browned on the surface. Allow to cool slightly, then place a large plate over the top of the tart and invert the whole thing. Remove the tin and the baking parchment. Ta-da! Best eaten warm or cold rather than hot.