A moment to savor: I am less than one week away from the end of a Month of Meatlessness. Cue the shock. The horror! Why?! Well, after eating a few great vegetarian meals recently, my steak-obsessed boyfriend was interested to continue the trend. Out of a sincere desire to experiment with minimized meat consumption (combined with high-reaching ambition and some serious self-delusions), he audaciously proposed an entire month of vegetarianism. Within about 9 painful days, he was found ravenously destroying a blue cheese- draped venison burger at Borough Market. I, however, despite my love for all things bacon, took it as a personal challenge to finish the month without letting a piece of animal flesh cross my lips. To be fair – it actually hasn’t been too much of a lifestyle change for me. I cook almost exclusively vegetarian at home and can be completely satisfied with a veggie entree when eating out. I only found myself mourning my meat-freeness once or twice when an entire side of smoked salmon tried to seduce me from the fridge and when an entire table of Malaysian meat dishes taunted me from a communal table while I sobbed quietly from the corner.
Near-misses aside, I’ve relied heavily on Yotam Ottolenghi’s new vegetarian book, Plenty, which I bought as presents for 3 people before finally purchasing for myself. It’s so good and so beautiful, I think the man might be a genius. He, like me, is a dedicated meat eater who also revels in the beauty and flavor of meatless dishes that showcase everything from the humble onion to the unexpectedly sexy baby radish. Inspired by his ‘Very Full Tart’, I made a similar but oh-so-very-slightly-less-full-on tart with creme fraiche instead of double cream and leaving out the ricotta. You can really use almost any vegetables you like here. At a cost of only about 10 pounds, a tart this size could last at least 3 meals for 2 people, although it’s good enough that I ended up eating it straight out of the pan after an entire slice and a half. Prepare at your own risk….
A Very (slightly less than) Full Tart
Adapted very slightly from Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook
What You Need:
1 large yam or sweet potato, cubed
2 zucchini, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large handfuls spinach
a few glugs of olive oil
1 package rolled shortcrust pastry (easy to find in a British supermarket, maybe use a pie crust without sugar in the States?)
350ml creme fraiche (or, you know, a small container’s worth for those of you too busy to convert things)
1 small package feta (200g for you particular people )
salt and pepper
assorted herbs and spices – I put in a little cayenne and some mixed herbs that were lying around, but it’s totally up to you
1 small container of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
What You Do:
1. Toss the yam in some olive oil and whack it into a pre-heated oven at about 350F and after they get slightly soft (about 10-15 minutes ), chuck in the zucchini slices.
2. While those vegetables are roasting, saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil. Once soft, add the handfuls of spinach and saute until cooked, then remove from heat.
3. Unroll the pastry and place in a tart pan or rectangular tray, then prick all over with a fork to prevent from bubbling up. Once the vegetables are nice and soft and lightly browned to your preferred degree of doneness, put the empty pastry shell into the oven for about 10-15 minutes to brown.
P. S. I didn’t grease the pan and it was fine.
P.P. S. If you’ve got dry beans and are a big overachiever, you can weigh down the pastry and blind bake it. If you don’t and you’re lazy like me, just make sure to prick the pastry well and keep an eye out while baking and poke any big bubble.
4. Beat the eggs into the creme fraiche and crumble in the feta cheese. Add some salt and pepper and any herbs and spices you feel like.
5. When the tart crust is a nice light golden color, take it out of the oven and dump all the cooked vegetables in. Pour the eggy cheesy mixture around them, then take the tomatoes and arrange them sliced half up so the can be seen all red and pretty on top.
6. Chuck the whole happy deal back in the oven for 30-40 minutes or so.
7. When the filling is golden and only very slightly jiggles when shaken, take the tart out. Let cool for as long as you can stand it, then slice and eat. Try your best to save some for breakfast and maybe even lunch, you won’t regret it…