Do you grow basil? And is your climate basil-friendly? I do, and it’s not. While growing Mediterranean herbs like rosemary or lavender is not particularly difficult here if you provide them with a suitable micro climate, basil is a lot more demanding. It wants more sun, more water and richer soil. Here in Northwestern Europe, it can only be grown (more or less) successfully outside from June til September, which is a pity because it’s one of the most potent herbs and it can singlehandedly turn the simplest dish into an elegant feats. Last year I did an article on basil for which I made a special basil trial bed. I grew 8 different kinds of basil, including Thai basil and cinnamon basil. The more exotic kinds were fun to experiment with and some (especially lemon and cinnamon basil) were also great for tea. But for cooking I still mostly stick to the classical “Genovese”. As my basil-season is coming to an end and possibly yours, too, it’s a good idea to freeze some basil in. And cook one more dish that gives it the opportunity to shine. This ricotta basil tart is a few steps up from the simple ricotta al forno. Here the basil-speckled ricotta rests on a shortsrust base and instead of just being folded in, the sundried tomatoes are blitzed with thyme and garlic and smeared on top. The tart still feels pretty light, but looks more impressive than the rustic “ricotta al forno”. I made it when we had friends over for dinner and it was universally liked. Will have to make it again soon – while I still can.
It’s a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, once again. I will move on soon. I think.
Ricotta basil tart
from Yottam Ottolenghi
200g shortcrust pastry (shop bought or see my recipe bellow)
30g unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
20g chopped basil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
200g sundried tomatoes (plus a little of their oil)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Roll out the pastry and cut out a circle that is just slightly larger than the base of a 24cm spring-form cake tin. Place this inside the tin and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cover with baking paper and baking beans, and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked through and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over low-medium heat, then sauté the onions and four of the garlic cloves, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes or so, until the onions are soft and sweet but haven’t taken on any colour. Set aside to cool.
Whisk the eggs and yolks in a large mixing bowl, preferably with an electric mixer, until light and airy. Add the ricotta carefully and work just until it is well incorporated. Fold in the onion and garlic mix, basil, salt and pepper, then pour over the pastry and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until just set.
While the tart is in the oven, blitz the sundried tomatoes, the picked leaves of three thyme sprigs, the reserved chopped garlic, a pinch of salt and a few tablespoons of the tomato oil – you want a smooth paste. Spread this mix evenly over the top of the tart as it comes out of the oven, top with three whole thyme sprigs, then return to the oven for five minutes. Remove, leave to cool, and serve warmish or cold.
130 g flour
70 g cold butter
pinch of salt
3 tbsp ice cold water
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and add the cubes of butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter remaining. Try to work quickly. Stir in just enough of the cold water to bind the dough together. Refrigerate the dough for at least 10-15 minutes before using.