Trying to recreate a recipe from your childhood is challenging. It’s at least 20 years since I’ve had this tart but it’s one of those dishes that I’ve never forgotten. Made regularly for us on weekends in Suffolk by our friend Mary Miller, it has a legendary status and indeed is always referred to as Mary’s Tomato Tart. A couple of failed efforts almost got the better of me. Even after Mary kindly dug out the original recipe, I started to believe that only Mary could make Mary’s Tomato Tart and the memory of it was too entwined with flavors of English summers that I would never be able to recreate it. Now, I’m glad I persisted and the third time was the charm! This recipe now transports me back to a time filled with afternoons of blackberry picking and elderflower cordial.
Mary’s Tomato Tart
Shortcrust pastry ingredients (fills a 9″ tart pan):
7 ounces flour
3.5 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold water
4 ounces fresh breadcrumbs from brown bread
8 tomatoes approximately
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Add all the ingredients for the pastry into a food processor and pulse until it forms a ball of dough.
2. Lightly flour your hands then mold the dough into a flat disc. Cover the disc of dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes by bringing a pot of water to the boil. Score a cross on the bottom of each tomato and then blanche for 45 seconds. Once tomatoes have cooked, drain and allow to cool.
4. Once cooled, peel them and cut each in half. Remove all stalks and seeds. Sprinkle the halved tomatoes with salt and leave in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. Discard any remaining liquid and be sure to dry well.
5. Spread the fresh breadcrumbs out on a cookie tray. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are crispy.
6. In a small bowl (it helps to pour if it has a spout) mix the anchovy paste well with the cream and then mix in the Gruyere and thyme.
7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled shortcrust pastry. Lay the pastry over a 9 inch tart pan and press the pastry flush with the tin, cutting off any overhanging pastry.
8. Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork, line with parchment paper and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans and blind bake for 10 minutes. If you don’t have old beans to blind bake with, you can use rice or even coins.
9. Once the pastry has baked for 10 minutes, scatter the browned breadcrumbs over the base of the pastry then arrange the tomato halves (rounded side up) to fill the base of the tart. Next add the cheese and cream mixture. You will have to press it in between the tomatoes. Don’t worry if it gets all over the tomatoes, you want to ensure that all the filling is coated with cream.
10. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. Test with a skewer to make sure the filling is set. Check that it’s not browning too quickly and reduce heat for the last 10 minutes if it is. Serve warm.