Pumpkin Tarte TatinNo Christmas dinner recipe for the Epicurean. He rather chooses the fragrant pumpkin tarte tatin.
Large roasts of wild meats or poultry are what usually come to mind when one thinks of Christmas dinners, but going with the mainstream has never been my strongest point, so here’s my offering for a wonderful, light, vegetarian Christmas: a fragrant, caramelized and comforting pumpkin tarte tatin.
A tarte tatin is usually made with apples and cooked upside down to produce a delicious, sticky dessert. We can also use this technique to make this pumpkin tart, which is simple but packed with flavour.
Start with the pastry
Start with the pastry. You can use store-bought pastry, of course, but it is easy, cheaper and, importantly, much tastier if you make it at home. Place the flour and butter in a large bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingers, until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Some larger pieces of butter are not a problem, but make sure you rub them quickly into the flour so that the butter remains cold.
Slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of ice-cold water until the dough just sticks together. Be conservative with the water, though. Too much and the dough becomes sticky. If that happens, just add a little bit more flour. Flatten the dough into a thick circle, cover it with cling film and place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
You can use any kind of pumpkin, but I usually opt for the green Kabocha or orange acorn squash, which are easy to find at the market the moment. Pick a firm, heavy pumpkin, about 15cm in diameter. Peel it with a vegetable peeler (pumpkins have surprisingly thin skins), cut it in half and remove the seedy core. Cut into little moon-shaped slices, about 1cm in thickness, and toss with the paprika, cayenne and some salt.
Place a 20-25cm frying pan on a medium heat, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and then the seasoned pumpkin slices. Keep them all in one layer; they should just about cover the bottom of the pan. Leave them to cook on a medium heat for 30-40 minutes, turning once, until they are golden brown and soft.
In a separate pan add two tablespoons of olive oil and the onions. Season them with salt and add the bay leaf. Cook for 30-40 minutes (while the pumpkin cooks) on a low heat until they are creamy and very soft. It may help to add a tablespoon of water now and then if the onions look dry.
Turn the heat off and take the bay leaf out. Add the miso paste and a little water, and mix thoroughly. Miso is a paste of fermented soybeans and comes from Japan. It is easy to find at most Oriental stores and keeps in the fridge indefinitely.
After the pumpkin and onions have cooled down to room temperature, top the pumpkin with a layer of onions. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out into a disc, slightly larger than the frying pan, on a floured surface. Place on top of the onions and tuck the edges into the pan. Cut a small slit in the centre, so the steam can escape, and bake at 200 °C for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
Place a wooden cutting board over the pan and invert the tart onto the board. Serve thick wedges of the tart sprinkled with some toasted pumpkin seeds and a bright green salad. A beautiful, earthy and comforting dish for the holidays.
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