You little tart!

Butternut squash tarte tatin with sage and walnut crumble

Continuing the vegetarian trilogy with 2 more interesting dishes.

Tarte Tatin de Courge Butternut Choux Noir de Toscane Crumble aux Noix et Sauge. Roasted butternut tatin with cavolo nero and a walnut and sage crumble. And Artichaud Poivrade Cuit au Foin, Pousse de Navet Croustillante, Sauce à l’orge et Malt or hay-baked baby artichoke, cima de rapa and roasted malted barley sauce. Except they didn’t have coma de rapa so chef used more cavolo nero.

I love butternut squash. And I always enjoy pearl barley when I’m served it, yet I seldom cook with it. I must make more of an effort.

It turns out Tarte Tatin isn’t just for apples and this savoury version also starts with a caramel. A key step early on is to let the caramel brown a bit. The deeper the colour the less sweet and more bitter it becomes. So I’m left to gauge how much colour is enough. Uhuh. And of course, caramel is HOT so it’s not like it’s easy to taste as you go. Then in with Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar. Yes indeedy. Here’s where it is possible to taste, albeit still magma hot. A few tablespoons were added to the tart tins and sage leaves arranged on top.

Today is Thursday and it reached 38.1C in London. It was hotter than that in the kitchen. Awesome. I know, let’s work with puff pastry. That’ll be fun won’t it. Thank god for blast chillers—for the pastry’s benefit and mine. Fortunately I only had to roll it out, rest it in the chiller, cut some disks for my tart bases and quickly mould them around the disks of butternut squash. The squash disks were first scored and pan-fried in olive oil to get a Maillard reaction that builds flavour. Oven. Have fun in there, little ones. The squash trimmings were simmered to soft and then puréed with some olive oil. OMG. Amazing. What an amazing colour too. Did I say I love butternut squash?

What’s life without a crumble? This was a savoury crumble—made exactly the same way. Flour, oats, butter plus shallot and sage, sweated down in butter, and walnuts. Crumble is perhaps counterintuitive. The more you crumb it between your fingers and thumbs the bigger the crumbs get. Or is it just me? Oven.

Garniture was simple. Cavolo nero blanched then licked in hot olive oil.

Turning the tarts out was fun. Hot. Hot. Use oven cloth. Ah yes. Now the tin is stuck to the cloth with molten caramel. Awesome. A new cleaning challenge for Vanish. The trick is to break the “vacuum” between the caramel and tin by ever so gently probing with a small palate knife. Suck. Plop. The eagle has landed. My tarts are safely on the yellow chopping board the right way up. I had to rescue the sage leaves that decided to remain in the tin and relocate them on top of each tart with the front of the leaves facing up.

I was very happy with my plate. It’s a great recipe but getting the acidity right is tricky. Truth be told, my tarts were just a touch on the sweet side. I wondered at the time whether I’d bottled it with the caramel by pulling it off the heat too early. Also, more vinegar sir. I seem to be swinging either side of correct when it comes to acidity. Too much acidity, like my red mullet, or not enough acidity in this case.

In demo chef smoked baby artichokes in damp hay. The barley sauce that went with it isn’t so much a sauce as a gloop. A good gloop. Like a wonderful alternative to mashed potato, maybe. It started by sweating shallot in butter with garlic and thyme leaves. In went the soaked barley, salt and pepper, and…wait for it…malt extract. Then everything was covered with water and left to slowly cook. You get it right when the water cooks away entirely and the barley pearls are left perfectly al dente. The barley is then blitzed to oblivion with butter and double cream. Huzzah for French cuisine! I say oblivion because chef managed to blow 2 blenders before the Thermomix got the job done. The first blender also took out the power to the kitchen.LOL. Chef started break dancing to pass the time. It was more like a Parisian mime pulling on an imaginary rope—actually not a bad mime as it goes.

For a texture contrast some soaked barley was puffed up in the frying pan but they turned out like bullets. I think this was because they were attempting to puff when the power went out and chef used the residual heat on the electric plate. Maybe there wasn’t enough oomph to puff.

Here are the 2 dishes chef knocked up in demo.

Chef’s butternut squash tarte tatin with sage and walnut crumble

Hay-smoked artichokes with roasted barley sauce