The English Student Cooks: Italian Cheese & Red Pesto Tartlets

I’m currently cooking my way through Mary Berry’s Complete Cook Book, which the Pragmatist gave/lent to me when I moved out for my first full-time job. I wanted to document the experience as a kind of cooking diary, and so “The English Student Cooks” was born. This will be an irregular feature, as I only cook when I’m home on my days off, which is Not That Often.

Italian Cheese & Red Pesto Tartlets

Method: I made the shortcrust pastry: I rubbed 2oz butter into 175g flour till the mixture resembled breadcrumbs, added some water and stirred it with a knife until it formed a dough. (I may have got impatient towards the end and just squished the dough together.) That went into the fridge for half an hour.

Meanwhile, I peeled four salad tomatoes (core them, score an x onto the base, put them in boiling water for 15 seconds and plunge them straight into cold water, after which palaver the skin comes off easily), chopped them up and de-seeded them; grated a ball of mozzarella (with difficulty); chopped three cloves of garlic (we don’t have a garlic crusher); and quartered nine black olives.

When the pastry came out of the fridge I rolled it out and cut it into four and a half inch circles using what should have been a cookie cutter but was actually the lid from my tub of baking beans. (We don’t have a cookie cutter either, and I couldn’t find one in Asda.) Then the edges of the circles got rolled up to make rims. Either because the circles were too large or because the pastry was too thick or some other arcane baking reason, I only managed to get five shells from the pastry (Mary said there should have been twelve) and they were all rather large. Anyway, I spread each shell with red pesto from a jar, filled them with the tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic and olives, and grated Parmesan onto the top before putting them in the oven at 200 Celsius for twenty minutes.

Substitutions/alterations: Apart from the aforementioned cookie cutter debacle, and the fact that I forgot to put any oregano in, none.

Verdict: These are awesome, like little pizzas, juicy and fresh for a summer supper. I still have three in my cupboard for tomorrow as well. They’re very fiddly, but worth it. Next time I shall try to acquire a suitable cookie cutter.

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