You may know by now, but I love me a farmers market. When a new one kicks off up the road in Coburg, I know how I'll spend my Saturday morning (total rager, right?). Matt and I met up with his sister Sarah, brother in law Tim and gorgeous niece Claudia for a fossick about the Coburg North Primary School for an hour or so. The thing is, I can't trust myself at a farmers market: I see all the gorgeous produce and can't resist. Must. Buy. Food. This one was no exception.
The market is held twice a month (every second and fourth Saturday) and the first event was pretty special. My favourite butter guys were there (yep, I have a favourite butter guy), loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, meats, oils and ready made food. I picked up some bagels and, in something of a premonition, I sense you'll be seeing more of them later in the week.
Wandering around, I came across a sweet little bag of shallots and pounced. I had visions of them caramelised whole - roasted? In a pan? No matter - the real question was what would accompany them. A second vision and I was set. I remembered reading about Karen Martini's recipe for a rough puff pastry online. Like a 24 year old guy at a cheap nightclub, I knew a tart was in my future.
Peeling shallots is one of life's more tedious tasks. Peeling baby shallots is a chore sent from the pits of hell. The papery skin either sticks to your fingers or stubbornly stays put on the shallot. Even when you think you've removed all traces, you toss them in olive oil and about thirty pieces suddenly appear out of nowhere. But, as with all things in life, the harder the task, the greater the rewards.
A regular puff pastry is a dough with layers of butter folded carefully in between. It requires hours of effort and an exacting touch to perfect. The rough puff is a simpler beast and results in such a flakey crust, it's hard to see why you'd make the real thing. It still does take a couple of hours, but most of that time is spent chilling the pastry between folds. Plenty of time to peel shallots. Or watch a Jennifer Aniston rom com. Your choice.
The biggest test of this whole recipe is definitely not in the pastry. When you yank the shallots from the oven, you will not be able to resist popping a couple in your mouth. But try as hard as you can: they work so well with the light, flakey pastry it will be worth the wait. Pile them as high as you can and drizzle with a little balsamic reduction. If you've been lucky enough to travel to Modena and snag the real stuff, a teaspoon here is worth the investment.
Shallots and their big cousins, onions, are just starting to come into season. The small shallots are the perfect mix of sweet and savoury and with the salty kick of the goats cheese are as close to perfection as you can achieve with a vegetable. This recipe is a bit of a celebration of the old allium, normally kept in the shadows of his showier recipe counterparts (much like Judy Greer in... every movie she's been in).
The thing with shopping at a farmers market is this: you're never buying out of season. Everything's perfect now because it just wouldn't be sold any other way. I'll admit that I do buy a heap of stuff from supermarkets, but when I look in my fridge on a Sunday night, it's the stuff from the farmers market that's been eaten. Which is a good thing, because there's usually not a stall for Doritos and Barney Bananas and I need all the incentive I can get to ditch that 'food group'.
Rough puff pastry
Adapted from Karen Martini
375g plain flour
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter is just combined. Add the lemon juice and half the water. Pulse briefly to incorporate. At this stage, check if more water is necessary - dribble as much in as you need.
Pour the dough onto the bench and knead just to bring it together. Shape into a rectangle and roll out to approximately 40cm x 30cm. Imagining your dough in three equal sections, fold the right third over the middle third. Brush off any excess flour. Fold the left third over the middle and again, brush off the excess flour. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
Once chilled, remove from the refrigerator and roll out to 40cm x 30 cm. Repeat the folding as above and chill again for 30 minutes. Repeat this step one more time and chill for a further 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Roll the pastry out to 50cm x 30cm (or around 3mm thick). Slice a rectangle around 15cm x 8cm. Chill for 15 minutes in the freezer. Pop in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until slightly golden on the edges and puffed up nicely.
1 small bag of shallots (around 200g)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 sprigs of rosemary
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Peel the shallots and place on a roasting pan. Remove the leaves from the rosemary and chop roughly. Thrown in the with shallots. Pour over the olive oil and add the salt and pepper. Toss to cover the shallots with the other ingredients. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour or until the shallots are golden and soft.
2 tbsp goats cheese
Rough puff pastry
1 tsp balsamic vinegar, or a balsamic reduction
Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet. Crumble the goats cheese over the pastry lightly. Place the roasted shallots on top. Bake at 180ºC for around 15 minutes or until the edges of the pastry are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.