Roasted Tomato Tart

Having just read The Colour of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe, as part of my “cook the book club”  selection for April & May … I’ve decided to make a Tomato Tart!

Thankfully there is the internet for research!  So I started my search for the perfect Tomato Tart recipe, til I narrowed it down just one or two.  Reading the recipes, I realized there were many things I didn’t know –  what they were, or how to do them  …  so back to the internet for more research ….

~what am I really making … a pie or a tart  ?   … apparently they are really cousins, the galette is included in this family as well.  tart will have a bottom and straight sides, whereas pie will have sloped sides and can have a top or no top to it  … also there is a small difference in the ingredients that go into making the dough.

~what the heck are baking beans?  no, not the same as baked beans.  you can really use dry beans (like red kidney beans) they help to distributes the heat more evenly so the pastry doesn’t puffing up so much …  and you need to do this to  “blind bake pastry”

~what is blind baking?  that’s when you pre-bake the pastry so it get it’s shape and golden brown

With everything I learned, I found a Tomato Tart recipe I just might be able to handle, courtesy of The Botanical Baker  …hailing from the UK (with a great deal more baking experience than me!).  Here’s a link to her original recipe:

When I mentioned to my husband that I’ll be making a tomato tart for dinner later this week  … he said “where’s the meat in that?”   So needed to update my shopping list, added some Prosciutto … then went out looking for the ripest vine tomatoes I could find (Mom’s are not in season yet)  … they smelled heavenly with that sharp sweet smell that only tomatoes have.  Leaving them on the counter to ripe just a couple of days more,  I picked the night, straight home from work and my tart-making-baking adventure began…

I’m pleased to announce it was a successful baking adventure, (my husband took a 2nd helping and asked to take leftovers for lunch – he never does leftovers! )  Here’s a picture of the final result;


This is what I used:

  • A pack of all butter puff pastry
  • 150g jar of pesto
  • 500g  (approx. 6-7)  medium on the vine ripe tomatoes  (or any other tomatoes)
  • 200g (about half)  zucchini
  • 6 slices of Prosciutto, or other dry cured ham
  • 125g of  bocconcini
  • Salt and black pepper to your preference



  • Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with greaseproof/parchment paper
  • Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle-ish shape about 5mm thick.

Rolling out Puff Pastry

  • Prick the base lightly, with a fork and then fold in each edge over itself so you have a little, thick border … keeping sides are straight as possible.
  • Cover over with some parchement paper and add baking beans and then pop this into the oven for about 15 minutes.
  • Take it out of the oven, take the baking beans off and then pop it back in the oven til it’s golden brown.  Leave it to cool.
  • Meantime, slice the tomatoes  (here I borrowed a trick from Jamie Oliver, put the slice tomatoes in a colander and give them a little salt as you go, this will help remove some of the excess juices).
  • Chop the zucchini however you like, I quartered and then chopped.
  • Put all the sliced tomatoes and zucchini in a large enough roasting pan/tin and drizzle over with some olive oil.  Add some fresh ground black pepper (or perhaps some herbs like thyme or basil).  Make sure everything is coated a little with the olive oil and then pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes til they are soft.
  • Your pastry should be cool by this point so spread the pesto over the base and then add your slices for Prosciutto  (I ripped them into smaller pieces, which also removed some of the fatty bits)

Proscuitto added

  • If veggies are still roasting you can start cutting up the bocconcini, small to begin with, I still cut into quarters, so I could get more cheese everywhere.
  • When the tomatoes and zucchini are done, using a slotted spoon, start placing them over the pesto and Prosciutto, they are nice and soft now, so you can kind of squish them to cover the whole area.
  • Then scatter the boccocini all around, and put in under the broiler for about 5 mins, til the cheese is nicely melted

out of the oven

  • And finally enjoy!  Tasted great the next day as well, warmed up for 5 mins in the oven.

~ louise

the colour of tea – my review
cookthebooks club
marla’s tomato tart in a parmesan crust

The Colour of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe

The Colour of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe

One of the main reasons I decided to join a book club, is the opportunity to read different genre of books and authors (the other was to attempt that thing called cooking!), and I was very glad for the recommendation of this book.

Having read the author’s bio, and feeling “the world is a small place!”  moment, myself born and raised in Vancouver, my husband from New Zealand, and before knowing of this book in March, my husband and I  just started holiday plans for next year to Hong Kong (Rugby 7’s – of course!), which we hope will include a side trip to Macau and other parts of China.  The author, Hannah Tunnicliffe,  is from New Zealand, has lived and worked in Macau and just until recently having lived in Vancouver as well  …  Three times the charm  … it’s a must read for me!

We first met the main character Grace Miller taking the bus, on her own for the first time in Macau,  not speaking a word of Cantonese or Portugese, on her way to find a fortune teller at the temple in the old historic San Malo part of Macau.  Little do we know this bus ride is just the beginning of the roller coaster we were about to take.

We went everywhere … from very serious issues of  physical and mental abuse, depression, infertility, unfaithfulness, to mental disorders … to such highs which included opening a Tea Shop in Macau of all things, and the many other things Grace and her eclectic network of friends builds on throughout the book, slowly, step by step.

Along this journey, I enjoyed myself thoroughly.   The sometimes frustration I felt with Grace  ….   yelling  (with my inside voice) …  “oh come on Grace” !  Other times I was jumping for joy celebrating her successes right along with her and her friends.

The Tea Shop being a main character of it’s own, food and the making of food, also a central part throughout.  Each chapter begins with a mouth-watering description, in all a total of 27 very yummy and exotic sounding, of the delicate French pastries called Macaron.  We learn as Grace learns how to make these delicate pastries (from Leon, the very handsome French chef ), and just how intimidating they are to bake.

So as incredible as it would be make these, I even saw a groupon for Macaron-making classes recently which I was tempted to get, but really, let’s be serious for a moment, I’m not a baker.   For the “cooking” part of this book review, I needed something a little less intimidating.  Marla and I just couldn’t get our schedules to jive this time – so  I’m going to be cooking on my own this time!

So what to do?   … well in the end, it wasn’t that difficult a decision – I’d never heard of a Tomato Tart before!

And, what a description we are treated to … such a great passage in the book having a memory within a memory.  Grace is thinking back to when she first meets her future husband Pete, but part of the memory is connected to the memory of Grace’s mom making her a tomato tart all those many years ago as well.

Another reason for choosing the Tomato Tart  … growing up in Vancouver, we had a vegetable garden and fruit trees in our backyard.  We always had an abundance of juicy ripe tomatoes and still do under Mom’s care!  There is nothing quite like being able to pick a ripe tomato right off the vine and eat it straight away!  So decision made, off I go to figure out how to make a Tomato Tart, hope you’ll join me as my adventure continues.

I’ve just realized this will still require some form of baking!

What have I gotten myself into!

~ louise

roasted tomato tart
cookthebooks club
marla’s book review

arancini with marinara

to coincide with our book reviews for ‘the shape of water’ by andrea camilleri, marla and i made delicious arancini with marinara. arancini, which are essentially fills rice balls fried to perfection, are a typical sicilian dish. coincidentally, they’re also a favourite of main character inspector montalbano.


to make the marinara..

1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
emeril’s ‘essence’ to taste (link below)

in a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp of each salt and pepper. saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. add the crushed tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. remove and discard the bay leaf. season the sauce with more salt and pepper, to taste.

this sauce can be made 1 day ahead. simply cool, then cover and refrigerate. reheat over medium heat before using.

to make the arancini..

3 3/4 to 4 c chicken stock
4 Tbsp butter
3/4 c finely chopped onion
1 c arborio rice
1/2 c dry white wine
1/2 c finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for garnish
1/3 c whipping cream
1 1/2 Tbsp combined, chopped fresh basil and italian parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 eggs
1/3 c cubed mozzarella
1/3 c cubed prosciutto
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1/2 c flour
1 c dry Italian bread crumbs
emeril’s essence (link to the recipe marla made below)

basic risotto..

in a saucepan bring stock to a simmer. cover and set aside to keep hot. in a large saucepan, melt 3 Tbsp of the butter over medium-high heat. add the chopped onion and saute until transparent, about 4 minutes. add rice and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is opaque and fragrant, about 1 minute. add the white wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed. while continually stirring, begin adding the stock in 1/2 cup increments, allowing the liquid to become completely absorbed between additions. cook until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, about 20 minutes. add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, heavy cream, herbs and salt and pepper and stir to combine well. transfer to a mixing bowl or baking dish and allow to cool completely. refrigerate (or pop into the freezer – careful to not freeze!) until thoroughly chilled. when ready to “raid the refrigerator” and make the arancini, remove the chilled risotto from the refrigerator and stir in 1 of the eggs. using a small scoop or large spoon, divide the risotto into approximately 3 tablespoon portions. using your hands, form the portions into rough ball shapes.

press a hole into the center of each risotto ball and stuff the center with some of the cheese and the chopped prosciutto. press the opening closed and roll the ball between your hands until it is smooth. set aside while you prepare the other arancini. in a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of oil until a deep-fry thermometer reads 360 degrees F.

place the flour, remaining 2 eggs and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls. season each with ‘essence’ to taste. using a fork, lightly beat the eggs. one by one, lightly dredge each risotto ball in the flour, then the beaten egg mixture, then the bread crumbs, so that each ball is completely coated.


transfer to a plate or baking sheet until you are ready to fry the arancini. fry the balls in batches, a few at a time, turning once during cooking so that they are evenly browned, about 2 minutes.


transfer to paper-lined plates to drain briefly, then serve immediately. serve with Parmesan cheese and marinara sauce.

how delicious does this look? too bad you can’t reach through your screen to grab a bite for yourself!


~ louise

emeril’s ‘essence’
giada’s basic marinara sauce
emeril’s arancini
cook the books club

the shape of water by andrea camilleri


This book is the first in a series by Andrea camilleri, set in Sicily, Italy and centres on the main character inspector montalbano. The lead detective in the fictional town of Vigata, which falls within the city headquarters Of Montelusa – a hot bed of criminal and political influences. Montalbano investigates the death of a prominent businessman that is well “connected” the body has been found at The Pasture under compromising circumstances.

Given the high profile of the deceased the inspector is under immense pressure from everyone on high to close the case quickly, but there is something not quite right with this “death by natural causes” – he has just 48 hours to hurry up and conclude his inquires, and hoping for “that flash of intuition which now and then strikes our policeman” … We then get to meet the many different and eccentric residents of vigata and surrounding areas – which makes this  a funny and interesting read for sure.

I don’t know if its because the book was first written in Italian and translated to English, but I found myself taking a moment to enjoy some of the phases that caught my eye, for example  … “Magical shamanistic practices” (used to describe how people might have learned about things that only the head of crime labs was to know!).

Or how about “splendid specimen of a nincompoop” (describing the son of the decease’s political rival) – which has a sort of lyrical way about it.  Some version of Sicilian Ambic pentameter perhaps?

And the inspector himself has much fun over the word “improcastinable” (used by the the lawyer Rizzo – shady right-hand man to the deceased).. if the word sounds that crazy in English – I wonder what it sounds like in Italian?

And now for the food.  I’ve never read a book with the secondary purpose to think about  food and what I could possibly cook (level: easy – please and thank-you). The book taking place in seaside vigata, there were many seafood dishes described; shrimps, sea urchin, octopus, striped mullet …. all things I’m willing to taste but not sure I’m ready to try cooking,  (well okay I think could handle the shrimp if i tried). Again a particular passage caught my eye, and had an instant connection with the following:

“He served himself an abundant second helping, but when he saw that this one, too, was coming to an end, he slowed down the rhythm of his chewing, to prolong, however briefly, the pleasure that delicacy afforded him.”

I tend to agree.. some food is so good that you almost inhale it, and have to remember to slow down to enjoy it before it’s all gone!

So I happily agreed when my friend, Marla (the one that also convinced me to try this adventure of book cooking and blogging!), suggested we do the cooking together – so we could be a little more adventurous – and since Marla doesn’t do seafood, we decided to make arancini. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re Italian rice balls  “fried to a delicate crisp” – just like the inspector’s striped mullet he enjoys at the San Calogero Trattoria in chapter 7. – accompanied by a simple marinara.

Having done a bit of research we also learned that arancini is said to have originated from Sicily back in the 10th century and our dear inspector in later books becomes know for his love of them ….. karma, we should give it a go!

So we hit the grocery store, checked that a fire extinguisher was nearby and began our 4 hour adventure into Italian cooking in her tiny apartment kitchen..  Time consuming yes, but so worth the effort, the risotto alone was fantastic!  I hope this cooking adventure might inspire you to give it a try yourself someday soon. The link for the recipe is below.

~ louise

arancini with marinara
cook the books club