Courgette Tart with Flowers

When I am in London, in a world sketched in soft hues of grey and tidy supermarket aisles, I often find myself day-dreaming about Mediterranean market stalls. I close my eyes and imagine vivid displays of colour. First come tomatoes in all sizes and shapes, followed by shiny round aubergines. Deeper still, I find stacks of fresh herbs, parsley, mint, and thyme and there, amidst the greens, lurk the vibrant yellow courgette flowers. Suddenly I long for them battered and fried or stuffed with cheese and served with tomato and pomegranate sauce.

I am currently in Lebanon and able not only to enjoy seasonal produce but to buy from stall holders whose harvest comes literally from the back garden. As I drive past rickety tables temporarily set up on the side of the road, I relish the thought of discovering someone new. When I do, I regularly re-visit the spot for something fresh and most probably very tasty.  (Small growers tends to use less fertilisers, less pesticides and in some cases, none, allowing natural flavours to develop).  

On my way back home today, I stopped by an elderly man and his wife who were selling courgettes which had just been picked and the flower still attached. Difficult to resist. We chatted and as I picked a few from the crate he told me that his wife added courgette flowers to her dill flavoured omelette. Quite an idea! I thought. I bid them farewell and headed back home to start my own rendition of cooked courgette flowers.
Courgettes are hugely under-valued but I love them because they are versatile and adapt to different flavours. The flowers, a different story, are whimsical and delicate. I decided to pair both together in a rosemary flavoured tart. Here is how I did it.

Rosemary Short Crust Pastry

250 g plain flour
125 butter, cold and diced
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
Sea salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
1/2 tablespoon rosemary,chopped

Using a processor:

  1. Place flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse a few times until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Now add the eggs and process some more. Add the water gradually until the dough comes together and becomes smooth. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Using your hands:

  1. Put the flour in a heap onto a work surface and make a hole in the middle. Add sugar and salt. Incorporate butter into the the flour working it lightly with your fingers to get a crumbly mixture. Add the eggs and combine. Add cheese and rosemary and lightly mix with until the dough comes together.
  2. Do not over knead the dough. Wrap in a cling film and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes or until ready to use.
This pastry will keep in the fridge for 5 days.

Courgette Flower Tart
200 ml double cream
200 g grated gruyere
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 small courgettes, sliced and grilled
3 courgettes flowers, halved
olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C /350 F /gas mark 4.
  2. Thinly roll out the pastry on a floured surface. From the middle upward and from the middle downward roll it until it is flat and of equal thickness all around. 
  3. Transfer to a tart tin about 25 cm diameter. Refrigerate for ten to 15 minutes.
  4. During this time, slice the courgettes thinly and grill them on a hot griddle. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle them with a salt.
  5. Arrange the grilled courgettes and flowers in the in the pastry base and scatter the grated the cheese.
  6. Gently whisk the egg and cream. Add nutmeg, black pepper, herbs and some salt.
  7. Pour the cream mixture over the vegetables in the pastry base and bake for 30 minutes or until the mixture is set and the surface golden brown.

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