tomatoes, a tart and just a smidge of pride

tomatoes || cityhippyfarmgirl

The quietening effect of looking at the tomatoes on the bench even surprised me a little. Eyes slowly scanning over their little green surfaces, searching for that hint of red that would soon burst through. Their tiny foliage hats slowly shrivelling as their connection with the plant in which had shoved them into their small tomatoey glory was now gone.

Unceremoniously yanked out, their yellowing leaves and and wilted limbs telling me it was time. The caterpillars had also moved in, my vigilant watching had wavered and they had seized their opportunity. A greedy multilegged stampede towards the prize line- launching themselves on to the not yet ready fruit. With green tomato stuffed through out their squishy bodies. They would seemingly wave to me in indignation and a last hungry effort as I plucked and squished them off in annoyance.

It was me or them, and I had no intention of it being me. This was my biggest crop this year. No easy feat growing from those small pots in the midst of the concrete city courtyard. No easy feat.

tomato tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

So it was with a smidge of growers pride I made this tart. A simple one, with onions, mozzarella, fetta and those sweet little tomatoes.

Home grown little tomatoes…I salute you.

tomato and fetta tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

Tomato, onion and Fetta Tart

Pastry

200gms cold butter

2 cups plain flour (300gms)

110gms natural yogurt

In a food processor pulse flour and butter until resembles bread crumbs. Tip out into a bowl and add yogurt. Mix through, a quick knead until a smooth consistency and then roll out pastry on a lightly floured board. Roll to the thickness you want (I find this amount is enough for two large sized tarts, and adding it to a greased tart tray.

as many cherry tomatoes as you have

half a finely chopped spanish onion

about 100g of mozzarella

one small block of crumbled fetta

one sprig of rosemary

Lay all ingredients in a layered fashion until it reaches the top of the pastry sides of the uncooked pastry shell and bake until it smells delicious at 190C.

ripening tomatoes || cityhippyfarmgirl

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little soft sweet white peaks of cloud

lemon meringue

lemon meringue

My grandmother once told me she used to make a sponge cake each year for her own birthday cake when her kids were young. That’s what they all loved to eat, so that’s what she would make, she said over a pot of tea one day. Kind and generous yes, and certainly in keeping with a birthday spirit. But… my 83 year old grandmother doesn’t like sponge cake. She never has.

It was probably never going to be a problem that I would have. Committed to my kids taste buds, of course. I frequently catered to their often under ripe taste buds. But committed enough to make them (me) a sponge cake? Oh hell no, (I don’t like them either.)

Several people offered to make me a birthday cake this year. I said that was so very kind, and then politely declined though. You see, I love making my own cake (or tart as the case may be.) It’s the one time of the year, I can make something exactly to my own taste buds. No chocolate, no lollies, no cream… no sponge cake.

For this years birthday I had lemon meringue pie on my mind, and I’d been planning it ever since the last time I had made it, (with added blueberries for good measure.)

“…but it’s not a proper birthday if there isn’t cake,” declared an unsure little voice.

 “Piffle,” I said confidently, “How exciting will the little soft sweet white peaks of cloud like meringue look in amongst a few candles.” Birthday’s can be anything you want it to be, that’s the wonderful thing about birthdays.” 

I kept that close in mind when I decided I would like wholemeal spelt pancakes, blueberries, mangoes, crackers and cheese for dinner as well…anything I want it to be, right?

lemon meringue

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And as my still fairly recent tradition of making something meringue-y for my birthday continues, so does my recipe list.

Lemon Meringue Pie 2013

Blue Cherry Meringue Tart 2012

Berry Meringue Tart 2011

A Rather Tall Birthday Cake 2010

time to lay back…

DSC_0385 copy  wool tart

running and happy squeals

accompany snatched handfuls of food when whizzing by

a simple plum and nectarine tart is whittled down to crumbs within minutes

a new red hooking project begins

capes flutter in the wind

time to lay back and ponder the clouds

letting the mind just quietly wander

…oh when was the last time I did that?

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What are you up to this weekend?

DSC_0371 copy

for the love of italy

You know that bubble of excitement you get some times? It starts at the pit of your stomach, spreading a warmth through out your body, and ending at the very ends of your hair strands. Every fibre of your body has just experienced that warm happy feeling, that if you could capture it in a glass jar, would surely radiate a pulsing soft yellow glow.

A whole bundle of descriptive happy emotions all wrapped up in that one glass jar. You might get that feeling on seeing a loved one, the simple touch of someone who cares, hearing something that truly speaks to you on the radio, giving something to another, or simply feeling a warm afternoon breeze coming down off the mountains.

For every different person there could be a hundred different reasons for generating that wonderful feeling. And the best thing about it? It usually takes you by complete surprise. There you are going about your business, and bam. Every fibre of your body has just been touched by that invisible soft pulsing yellow glow. Leaving your mouth smiling, eyes sparkling and your heart just that bit bigger.

There are several things that can quite often trigger these feelings for me. Without completely leaving my soul out on a canape platter for the whole world to snack on, I’ll mention just the one today.

Italy. Bella Italia.

Now for any long term readers, this isn’t a surprise. I’ve often written of my love of all things Italian. Italy runs through my veins like a good custard slice does. It’s part of who I am. Not because of an extensive family tree, but my branches have definitely self sown themselves in that Italian direction.

Reading this article (here) on Italian street food brought forward a wonderful array of delicious taste bud memories from my different times spent there. Piadinas in darkened bars eaten at late hours. Wedges of thick volcano hot foccacia eaten while strolling up and down the one street as a teenager. Towering gelato eaten on freezing cold days, eaten simply because we could.

And the one that stands out as the most novel of all?

Ending all night club dancing with a crema filled croissant at 4am. Not just any croissant, but one that can only be purchased from the early morning baker who opens a tiny portion of his centuries old wooden door through a darkened cobble stoned alley way to tired dancers on their way home. A crisp and flakey croissant, still warm from the oven with custard like crema that brushes past your lips far too quickly. The secret baker who made this sweet delight and will only open up to the friend, of the friend, of the friend, who knows where on earth that secret wooden door can be found again come the next Saturday night.

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Watching Two Greedy Italians recently I was inspired to make something similar to their Lemon and Ricotta Tart. I had limes and I had ricotta and if I talked to The Monkeys in an Italian accent while I baked the thing… maybe just maybe I could be transported even for a minute or two, to the land of vespas, pizza and that crema filled 4am goodness.

I was willing to give it a shot anyway.

Lime Ricotta Tart

(the love child of this Lemon and Ricotta Tart and this Lemon Meringue Pie)

one can of condensed milk

half cup lime juice and one grated lime

3 separated eggs

300g fresh ricotta

one sheet of puff pastry

Mix all ingredients together, except egg whites. Whisk egg whites separately, fold into mixture. Grease pie dish, line it with a sheet of puff pastry. Pour mixture in and bake 40minutes at 190C.

Verdict?… Dead easy. Tastes a bit like a light cheesecake, and a bit like a not so sweet lemon meringue pie.

Blueberry Frangipane

3am and I’m sitting in an armchair next to Little Monkey’s hospital bed when he broke his leg. The armchair was my bed for the duration, swamped by blankets I’d made a nest for myself so I could keep one eye closed for sleep and one eye watching carefully over the little fella as he slept.

In my hand however was a the most delicious thing I had encountered for quite a while. Not hospital food, but a frangipane fruit tart. Brought in earlier, by my very thoughtful sister from Brasserie Bread.

I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I was eating it at 3am that made it delicious, or it really was the best darn tasting tart I had ever tasted. Either way, it was superb and I couldn’t get enough of it. Fast forward 2 months, and that hopsital stay is happily a distant crappy foggy memory, but that tart….

That tart, was the kind of tart that makes you sit back, and let those taste buds reminisce. I put the tart in my, will have to give that a crack one day… thought pile and then went about my business. Until Amy at Tiny Tea Room posted on a pastry-less almond Pear Tart. Now with Amy’s stunning photography I’m sure she could make a white bread cheese sandwich appealing, but non-the less that sweet almondy goodness was brought back to my mind, front and centre…. and no pastry? Even quicker!

I wanted not crazy sweet, vanilla-y tones, and a gritty type texture….oh and easy. Let’s play…

Blueberry Frangipane

150gms softened butter

1/2 cup raw sugar

2 tsp vanilla essence

3 eggs

150gms almond meal* (1 1/2 cups)

100gms course semolina (1/2 cup)

125gms blueberries

Cream butter and sugar together, Add the vanilla and eggs. Stir through almond meal and semolina. Blueberries on top. Bake in a greased, floured tin (approx 23cm square) at 180C for about 30minutes or until light golden.

* I lightly toasted whole almonds, skin on, and then blitzed them in the blender to make the almond meal.

Verdict? It didn’t quite match that 3am frangipane fruit tart but I was happy with it. Super easy, and really quick. I think this one might become a regular favourite. You can easily up the sugar if you want it sweeter, and swap the blueberries for other seasonal fruit.