From Paris to Provence

by Trini








I had exactly zero bad coffees in Melbourne, but a particularly good one at A La Folie on Chapel Street in South Yarra, which is also where I heard about the Melbourne French Festival, From Paris to Provence. By chance, it was on the same weekend as my visit, so I was able to squeeze in a quick trip to the festival to see what it was all about.

Held at the historic Como House and Gardens in South Yarra, the festival celebrates French food, language and culture and is a great event for Francophiles and those who want to travel to or live in France. Aside from market stalls with artisan foods, clothing, antiques and homewares, there was live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, educational seminars and champagne in abundance. I even learned that in some parts of France it’s normal to greet your friends and relatives with up to five kisses! With a fairly big extended family, that would make our Christmas get togethers quite drawn out I think. Though the thing to do, apparently, is to agree on the number of kisses before you start in order to avoid any awkward cheek-suspended-in-the-air moments.

Inspired by all the crepes, bread, cheese and wine at the festival, I decided to test out my French cookery credentials and make a french inspired tart, because if I can’t whisk myself away to Paris right now, I should at least afford my taste buds the opportunity.

My Spinach and Three Cheese Tart is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Swiss Chard, Herb and Young Cheese Tart. It’s a flavour packed recipe that differs nicely from my usual spinach and feta combinations, and makes for a delicious light meal with a simple green salad.

Spinach and Three Cheese Tart

Serves 4 as a light meal or appetiser

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

3 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1 bunch Silverbeet spinach (approximately 200g)

2 garlic cloves, crushed or thinly sliced

1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon mint leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley. chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried sage leaves

15g pine nuts, lightly toasted

Grated zest of 1 lemon

75g feta, crumbled

50g parmesan cheese, grated

100g fresh ricotta cheese, crumbled

1 egg, beaten lightly

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 sheets (330g) Pampas puff pastry

1. Sauté the onion, celery, garlic, mint, parsley and sage in the olive oil for a good 8-10 minutes over a medium-high heat. Add in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Turn off the heat, then stir in the feta, parmesan, pine nuts, lemon zest, salt and black pepper to taste. Leave aside to cool.

2. Preheat oven to 200°C. Take your 2 sheets of pastry, and cut as large a circle as you can from them by removing the corners. This will form the base and sides of your two tarts. Place them on to a baking tray lined with wax paper, then spread the filling on to the pastries, leaving a 3 cm border all around the edges. Crumble the ricotta over the filling, then bring the pastry up around the sides of the filling and pinch the edges together firmly to form a secure edge.Brush the pastry with the beaten egg, then refrigerate for 10 minutes.

3. Bake the tarts in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and cooked on the base. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.