One of the saddest things I can hear a person say is that they have no real interest in food or ‘can’t be bothered’ with cooking. In the way that an avid reader will insist that those who prefer TV are ‘missing out on SO much’ those who choose to dismiss cooking because they aren’t good at it or, more likely, just aren’t used to it are (in my opinion at least) living with an empty void that can and absolutely should be filled.
Of the many reasons a person can, and should, enjoy cooking one that we can all identify with is its ability to unearth memories one might not normally connect with. Whether through a taste, a smell or family secrets passed down through generations there are at least a few buried emotions in all of us waiting to blossom through the simple act of preparing a meal.
In my case, there are many sentiments that chime throughout my cooking repertoire as a result of all the tricks I have picked up from the many wise women in my life. For example, I have never cooked a pancake without becoming instantly immersed by that warm, fuzzy homely feeling as I smugly reach for the self raising flour instead of the traditional plain; a recipe secret my Mum has always sworn by. Whenever I am desperately scooping tomato puree in an attempt to thicken watery sauces I am suddenly in my Granny’s kitchen on a crisp autumn Sunday afternoon watching her nurture the Sunday dinner gravy swearing by this staple ingredient and its magical thickening qualities. Even the baking of a cake cannot pass without at least a suppressed chuckle at the lifetime battle my Auntie has waged against cakes and their unwillingness to rise, a reminder that persistence is key and will always triumph eventually.
This recipe, like almost every dish I have made emerged as result of fond memories, this case it is those of summer trips to London Soho’s vegetarian/vegan restaurant Tibits. One Tibits dish which is not to be missed is the dried bean and walnut salad. I have taken these ingredients and combined them with ‘Jus-Rol’ puff pastry, a favourite vegan product of mine, to make my ‘Runner bean and walnut puff pastry tart’.
Ingredients (serves 2)– Jus-Rol puff pastry (1 sheet defrosted for 4 hours at room temperature or 1 min in microwave)
– Tomato puree (5 tablespoon)
– Balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons)
– Olive oil (1 tablespoons for tomato source, 1 tablespoon for lining tin)
– Tomato ketchup (2 tablespoons)
– Mixed dried herbs (2 teaspoons)
– Walnuts (2 handfuls, roughly crushed by hand)
– Thinly sliced runner beans (approx 150-200g)
– Vegan cheese (this is optional as it is not readily available but if possible I would recommend using – Vegusto’s No-Moo Melty which can be bought online here or in Wholefoods and other health food stores)
– *Seasoning* salt, pepper
Method (25-30 mins)1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
2. Combine the tomato puree, tomato ketchup, dried herbs, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper in a bowl for tomato base of the tart.
3. Crush the walnuts but leave some big chunks in for texture.
4. Thinly slice the runner beans if you haven’t bought them pre-sliced.
5. All your toppings are now ready, line a baking tin with olive oil or vegan margarine a place the puff pastry sheet on the tin.
6. Spread the tomato sauce on the puff pastry sheet leaving a couple of inches around the edge for the puffed ‘crust’.
7. Add the runner beans and a layer of grated vegan cheese (if you are using it) and place the tart in the oven for 10 mins.
8. Sprinkle the walnuts onto the tart (it’s important to do this halfway through cooking as opposed to at the start otherwise the walnuts will burn).
9. Place back in the oven for a further 10 mins.
10. After a total of 20 mins in the oven your pastry should be puffed up, golden brown and ready to enjoy!