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Savouring September



Ah! Paris in September. Full of hopes and dreams. There's a whiff of optimistic motivation in the temperate air while the city reboots from its compulsory August holiday. It’s a time for resolutions, for new projects. And for catching up with friends over a leisurely apero.

JW and RW have just moved to Paris from London, and have fallen on their feet. They have a house. With a garden. This is most unusual in the city of small apartments. It seems that being an academic has its real-estate benefits; they’re renting a fellow academic’s house for the year, covering a sabbatical, at student rates. The only downside is having to live with someone else’s stuff. Lots of stuff. It turns out that ethnography professors can be HOARDERS. However, a major clean up job and a mass exodus of various relics to the (spacious) basement has left them with a picture perfect home and garden. Ideal for entertaining. We were duly invited for an early evening apero this weekend.

The french ‘apero’ is their version of drinks and nibbles, where everyone brings something to add to the spread. We were coming à trois with a friend who's staying for the week, and as we wouldn’t be having dinner afterwards I wanted to bring some substantial savoury treats. The late season tomatoes and bulbous courgettes at our local vegetable market were particularly inspiring this week, so I rustled up a savoury courgette cake and a tomato tarte. Délicieux.

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Courgette, date and pistachio savoury cake

Serves 8-10, takes 20 minutes plus baking time

summer / autumn / quietly smug / easy peasy / party / detox / gluten free (option) / dairy free / vegetarian / baking / / picnic / side / baby / brunch

This loaf is inspired by a lovely Honey and Co recipe. Mine is a savoury version (the French DO love a savoury cake), using ground almonds and spices. It is as light as a feather, satisfyingly textured and pleasingly green. If baking for a baby, use ground pistachios instead of chopped.

* Courgette - 2 (about 350g)

* Salt - 1/2 tsp (leave out if cooking for a baby)

* Ground almonds - 100g

* Plain flour - 100g (use chickpea flour for gluten free)

* Baking powder - 2 tsp

* Pistachios - 1/3 cup

* Dates - 1/2 cup, pitted and chopped

* Ground caraway - 1/2 tsp

* Zatar - 2 tbsp

* Black pepper - a good crack

* Olive oil - 1/3 cup

* Eggs - 3

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Top and tail the courgettes, then grate them, conserving half of one to decorate the cake (you want about 300g grated). Place the grated courgette in a colander with the salt and mix well. Leave to drain.

In a large bowl, mix the almonds, flour, baking powder, pistachios, dates and spices.

Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the courgettes, then add to the bowl. Add the eggs and olive oil and stir until just combined.

Pour into a greased and floured loaf tin. Slice the remaining half courgette and arrange the slices on top. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and bake in the oven for 50 minutes.

Leave the cake to cool a little before turning it out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roast tomato and mascarpone tarte

Serves 8, takes 40 minutes, plus baking time

summer / autumn / showing off / party / vegetarian / baking / brunch / picnic / starter / main

This is another mama Page speciality (see also a luscious almond and fruit tarte), which she’s been making for donkey’s years in Provence. I’m afraid it really isn’t worth doing unless you can get hold of proper, seasonal, organic tomatoes. Even HERITAGE, dare I say it. Everything comes down to the quality of the fruit. Apart from that it’s very simple - buttery pastry, a creamy base and heaps of tomatoes. A winner, ideal as a starter, a light lunch, as part of a picnic spread....

For the pastry

* Unsalted butter - 80g, cold, cut into chunks

* Plain flour - 140g

* Salt - a pinch

For the tarte

* Tomatoes - 1 kg

* Mascarpone - 150g

* Parmesan - 60g, grated

* Thyme - leaves from a few sprigs

30 cm metal tart tin

Started by making the pastry. Place all the ingredients in a mixer and pulse until you have the texture of breadcrumbs. Add 1 tbsp of cold water and pulse again until the mixture comes together in one ball. You might need to add a touch more water. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes into 1cm slices, removing any white bits in the middle.

Mix the mascarpone, parmesan and thyme together in a bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to fit your tin. Press the pastry into the tarte tin, taking care to remove any air bubbles between the tin and the pastry. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork a few times, then bake for 12 minutes, or until just starting to brown.

Remove the tart from the oven and reduce the temperature to 180 degrees.

Spread the mascarpone mixture evenly over the pastry in a thin layer.

Starting from the outside, arrange the tomatoes in concentric circles, with each slice overlapping the next by about half, and each circle overlapping the previous one. Use the ends of the tomatoes to tuck underneath the inner circles. Season with salt and pepper, and add a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake in the oven for 75 minutes, until the tomatoes are completely soft and beginning to brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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