Potato, Red Pepper and Tomato Tart

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My sister, Mary, was visiting a friend in New Zealand when she first tasted this tart. The recipe was from a magazine, and she photocopied the page and brought it back to Paris with her. This would have been around the millennium, when we didn’t all just text each other the link whilst still à table.

Mary loves to entertain: home-cooking hearty, reliably delicious family dinners for a tight, international circle of friends several times a week. Her standbys include simple pastas, raclette and roast chicken — or, as she calls it, Bette Davis’s verbally-abused chicken, thanks to her best friend who used to prepare it with Ms. Davis, using a vituperative tenderizing technique that involved phrases like, “You’ll never be nothin’ but a stupid chicken.” It was a blunter time.

Maybe it’s because I’d elbowed my vegetarian way into her meal planning, but once we had the potato, red pepper and tomato tart, it quickly became a fan fave. Also, because it was so versatile. You could serve it warm or at room temperature, as a side or a main, and it was always a crowd pleaser. Once, we took it to the Prix de Diane, France’s version of The Oaks, which was sponsored by Hermès at the time. I don’t remember the horse race, but I remember the extraordinary hats and trekking through Chantilly Forest with a proper picnic hamper filled with champagne and a potato, red pepper and tomato tart.

Horchow.com (Neiman Marcus)

Later that summer, my nephew visited Paris with the senior class from his all-boys school. When the class came to dinner, we served the tart (with lots of red wine — which, in retrospect, I’m not sure showed the best aunt judgement), and one of the boys innocently walked off with the recipe. Easy come, easy go… but Mary and I never stopped dreaming of the tart.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and Mary’s friend located the original recipe and emailed it to her. The funny thing is, Mary printed off the email and sent the hard copy to me — so once again, it has been one misfortune away from being lost forever… or at least for a few more decades.

That’s why I’m quickly copying down a non-metric version of it here. I made it a few weeks ago in honor of one of my heroes, Jacinda Ardern, and the women of New Zealand, and I’m looking forward to reintroducing it to the regular rotation.

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Potato, Red Pepper and Tomato Tart

Chili pastry
1 1/3 c. flour

Pinch of salt

7T chilled butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

1/2 tsp crushed red chilis or chili paste (I used Gochujang last time and it added a really nice depth of flavor)

2-3 T cold water

Sift flour and salt into a bowl and mash the butter pieces into the flour. Stir in the cheese and chili powder or paste and add enough water to form a firm ball of dough. Wrap in a parchment and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Tart filing

1 red pepper, roasted skinned and seeded (or a jarred roasted red pepper for convenience)

3 firm, ripe tomatoes, skinned and seeded (again, you can take a shortcut and use canned whole tomatoes — which I actually prefer since I don’t like to buy fresh tomatoes out of season)

2T olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste (and a little more chili paste if you like a kick)

3-4 waxy potatoes (such as red bliss or new potatoes), peeled

1 1/4 c. crème fraiche

1/2 c. grated Emmental cheese

Sauté the shallot and garlic in the olive oil until shallot soften, then add finely chopped pepper and tomatoes and cook for two minutes. Add the seasonings and gently simmer for five minutes until the mixture just begins to soften. Boil the potatoes for five minutes, drain and slice thinly. Beat together the crème fraiche and Emmental.

Assembly

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to fit a nine-inch, loose-bottomed flan pan that has been lightly greased with butter. Spread the tomato mixture over the pastry base, and lay the potatoes in circles over the top.

Spread the créme fraiche and Emmental mixture over the top of the potatoes. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden and the pastry is firm.

The recipe I will never lose again.

The recipe I will never lose again.

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