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A Thrifty Swiss Diet A story of dairy farms, tight budgets and cowbells.

Passport & Plate - Slow Roasted Tomato & Quark Tart

Switzerland | Sunday, March 1, 2015 | 4 photos

6 small Roma tomatoes or 12-16 grape tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil for drizzling
1 tspn sugar
1 cup quark (Continental Cheese or Ricotta as a substitute with a ¼ teaspoon of vinegar for tang
6 large or 12 small pickled onions (optional)
1 tbsp oil (if including the onions)
2 tbsp sugar (if including onions)
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated (substitute Parmesan)
1 egg
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 sheet chilled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
Salt and pepper to season

How to prepare this recipe:
Roast Tomatoes – Halve tomatoes & place on a lined baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt & pepper & sprinkle with 1 tspn sugar. Slow roast in an oven at 120c for 45 minutes to 1 hour. This concentrates the sugars in the tomatoes & avoids a soggy tart. Remove tray from oven & allow to cool.

Caramelise Onions – rinse pickled onions & cut into quarters (small) or slices (large). Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add onions & start to fry as you would for fresh onions. After a few minutes, add 1/4 cup of water & 1 tbsp of sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar & allow water to slowly boil & reduce to a syrup. Stir onions as you would any fried onions, adding more sugar if you are after a stickier mixture or a little extra water to loosen the mix. It should only take 5 – 10 minutes to caramelise the onions. They should be brown & sticky with little or no syrup remaining. Allow to cool in pan.

Create Filling – combine quark, Gruyere, lemon zest, thyme & egg. Season well with salt & pepper. Keep chilled.

Prepare Pastry -Take the sheet of puff pastry & divide in half. One piece is your base, the other will build the sides of the tart. Slice one of the pieces into three even lengths. Cut one of the lengths in half horizontally. You should now have four side pieces (2 long & 2 short) & the base.

Assemble – Place the base pastry piece on a lined & greased baking tray. Using an egg wash, place a flat length on top of the flat base, along one edge. Repeat with remaining side pieces, one along each edge. You will have four flat pieces on top of the base. Spread the chilled filling onto the base, inside the four side pieces. Place the onions & tomatoes evenly on the filling. Season with salt & pepper & extra thyme if you wish.

Cook - brush the sides of the tart with extra egg wash & then place in a hot oven (200c) for 20 – 25 minutes. Watch the tart for the last 5 minutes so it doesn't get too dark. Remove when pastry is golden brown & puffed.

The story behind this recipe:
This simple tart may not seem like a typical Swiss dish but to me, it's the essence of a wonderful spring spent in 'Switzerland on a Shoestring'.

After a few very loud and dusty months in the Middle East, driving into cool, quiet Switzerland was a tonic. Lush pastures, covered wooden bridges and picturesque lakes reflecting the snow capped mountains of the Bernese Oberland, it was indeed a page straight out of Heidi.

Our home in the sleepy village of Bremgarten bei Bern was an enormous old farmhouse that had been divided into four snug apartments. An introductory walk unexpectedly revealed a fully operational dairy farm at the end of our street. Fresh milk was available to buy at any time of the day or night from an automatic dispenser. The picture of Swiss efficiency.

There was also a farm gate stall. Free range eggs were always available as were new season potatoes. Some the size of golf balls, others as tiny as a fingernail. Sometimes there were onions or small leeks and at other times, baby spinach. Several times a week there was fresh quark, a tangy spreadable cheese. One exciting day there was fresh corn. Payment was via an exercise book where you recorded your purchases and left money in a jar. The picture of Swiss honesty.

The farm gate became our primary source for meals. Our own small garden offered tiny sweet tomatoes, lettuce and a variety of herbs. I was adept at creating meals from what was available each day in the garden and at the farm. I've never eaten so many potatoes or eggs in such a short period. The menu of a thrifty Swiss diet.

The tart became a staple. It was fast and could be adapted to whatever was on offer. It did double duty as an evening meal and to take on picnic walks along the river, fed by alpine glaciers. At home we often make this tart and it never fails to trigger discussions about farm gate visits, our walks though the countryside and the ever present 'bong bong' of cowbells in the distance. The soundtrack of Switzerland.

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