Let's take a moment to rejoice in robust simple foods. Soul-fortifying dishes where flavour combinations make sense and the delightful lack of any pomp and circumstance means that everything on the plate is there for a reason. The tarte tatin is this. Entirely.
An upside-down pastry featuring fruit (usually apples) caramelised in butter and sugar, it was first created – probably by accident – at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron in France in 1898. That's 120 years ago. And it's still good. So we've kept the most satisfying elements – good pastry and caramelised sugar – and meddled with it only slightly, adding a touch of richness or tang to move the dish onto the next level.
Caramelised onion, eschallot, leek and fennel tart with goat's curd
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
¼ cup olive oil
1 heaped tbsp brown sugar
large sheet pre-rolled puff pastry, cut to fit your baking dish
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced lengthways into 2cm slices
1 leek, washed, white part only, trimmed lengthways
250g red eschallots, peeled
2 white onions, peeled and quartered
ashed goat's curd
coriander leaves and fennel fronds, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Combine the pomegranate molasses, olive oil and brown sugar in a jug and stir to combine. Pour into the base of the baking dish (about 40cm square) and, using a spoon, stir to combine. Gently press the fennel slices, leek, eschallots and onions into the pomegranate mixture in a single layer then place in the oven and roast until soft and caramelised, about 30 to 40 minutes. Keep checking on it as you don't want the molasses mixture to burn.
3. Remove from the oven carefully (the dish will be hot) and top vegetables with the pastry, gently enclosing the sides around the mixture before returning to the oven to cook for another 30 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden.
4. When cooked, remove from the oven and use a knife to gently loosen around the edges before flipping onto a serving platter. Top with generous slices of ash-dusted goat's curd, pomegranate arils and herbs. Serve warm.
Serves 4 (or 6 as part of a wider offering)
Purple heirloom carrots make for a dark and handsome tart. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Carrot, caraway and coriander tarte tatin with herbed yoghurt and horseradish
You'll need a high-sided roasting dish about 36cm x 13cm for this dish.
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
200g mixed heirloom carrots
⅓ cup soft Persian-style feta
large sheet pre-rolled puff pastry, cut to fit roasting dish
¼ cup Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp each chopped flat leaf parsley, mint, dill, tarragon, chives
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
40g fresh horseradish* grated on a microplane
1. To make the herbed yoghurt, combine the yoghurt, herbs, lime zest and juice and olive oil in a medium bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Place a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the spices and cook, stirring often, to prevent catching, for about 1 minute or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and roughly grind. You still want some texture.
3. Wipe out the frying pan and return to the heat, turning heat to medium-low. Drizzle in some olive oil then add the onions and gently cook until soft and translucent. Add the brown sugar and apple cider vinegar and continue to cook until a jam-like consistency is achieved. Set aside.
4. For the roasted carrots, preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced. Add the carrots to a high-sided roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter over the toasted spices, season with salt and pepper and toss carrots to coat. Pour about 100ml water into the tray, cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes.
5. Remove foil and roast for a further 15 minutes, until the carrots are tender and the water has evaporated.
6. Remove the tray from the oven and dollop the onion relish over the carrots. Don't worry about being uniform – the pockets of surprise are what make this tart. Similarly, dollop over the feta in random spots before encasing the carrots in the pastry, tucking it around the edges as you would a bed.
7. Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Try to be patient, if you remove it too early the pastry will be soggy in the middle.
8. Loosen around the edges with a knife and carefully flip the tart onto a serving platter. Drizzle over the herbed yoghurt then sprinkle over the fresh horseradish and serve immediately.
*If you can't find fresh horseradish, mix 1 tsp prepared horseradish (you'll find it in the supermarket condiment section) into the herbed yoghurt mixture.
Serves 4 (or 6 as part of a wider offering)
Classic tarte tatin with a twist. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Spiced apple tarte tatin with ginger beer caramel
This recipe makes about 1⅓ cups of caramel, which is more than you need for this dish. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.
2 small granny smith apples, sliced 1cm thick
2 small pink lady apples, sliced 1cm thick
large sheet pre-rolled puff pastry, cut to a 23cm round
vanilla bean ice-cream to serve
¾ cup ginger beer
5cm knob ginger, finely grated
30g brown sugar
1 tbsp cream
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 190C.
2. To make the caramel, place the butter, ginger beer, ginger and sugar into a 20cm oven-safe nonstick frying pan and place over high heat. Bring to the boil and cook for one to two minutes or until thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and cinnamon.
3. Gently press the slices of apple into the caramel, overlapping the slices until you fill the frying pan. Top the apple with the pastry round and fold the edges under to tuck in the apples.
4. Place the pan on a baking tray and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for two to three minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife. Carefully turn the tart out onto a serving plate. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice-cream.
This spin on banoffee pie swaps whipped cream for toasted marshmallows. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Banoffee pie tarte tatin
The banoffee pie, a spectacular, tooth-achingly sweet dessert comprising layers of caramel, banana and/or marshmallow and cream, became a hit in the early '70s. Here we've replaced the traditional biscuit base with pastry. It's now slightly less sweet but equally indulgent.
½ large sheet pre-rolled puff pastry
½ cup store-bought dulce de leche (or make your own)
60g unsalted butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cardamom
5 small bananas, peeled, halved lengthways
jumbo marshmallows and coconut chips, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
2. Roll the puff pastry out on a floured surface and cut out a 23cm circle. Mark a 2cm border around the edge with a sharp knife but don't cut all the way through. Spread the dulce de leche over the centre of the circle up to the border then gently set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a 23cm nonstick frying pan, stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom, and fry the bananas, cut-side down, for one to two minutes, until they look lightly cooked. Then turn the bananas over carefully and cook for another minute. Carefully cover the bananas with the pastry, caramel side down, and press down the edges to encase the filling then place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.
4. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for two to three minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife. Carefully turn the tart out onto a plate. Top with marshmallows and, using a kitchen blowtorch, burn until soft and lightly golden. Sprinkle over coconut chips and serve. Alternatively, serve with vanilla ice-cream.