Before making vinarterta, I bought a lot of prunes. I wasn’t sure if we had enough and I didn’t think it would be a problem if we had extra prunes. We do use them often, after all.
But on the day after I got provisions for the cake making, T was going to get something on the shelf and came across the container of prunes. Here’s how the conversation went:
he: What are all these prunes doing here?
me: They’re for Cake Day.
he: Are you using ALL of them?!
me: No, I got extra.
he: What for? They’re just taking up space.
me: But we LOVE prunes! I thought we might have Moroccan chicken.
he: Great idea!! (enthusiastically looking for other ingredients for Moroccan chicken) …but what about the rest of the prunes? We’ll only use a few for the chicken.
We did go through several prunes to make Moroccan chicken. Twice. And of course, we made plenty of vinarterta. But the container of prunes was still there.
When we were leafing through our recipes and casually discussing what we should serve over the Christmas holiday, I came across my scribbled recipe for prune onion blue cheese tart that I hadn’t made Barrett’s prune and blue cheese tart since 2006!! WHAT an oversight!
And I thought, remembering the container of prunes, I’ve GOT to make these again. And Christmas came and went. And New Year’s celebrations came and went. And somehow, in the flurry, the tarts didn’t get made. (Don’t worry. We didn’t starve.)
The container of prunes was still there. Weighing on me. All through Christmas. All through New Year’s.
However, I had been asked to bring a few nibblies for a break during an evening meeting in the first week of January. Aha!! An opportunity at last. I made the tarts!! And after we tasted them, again I said:
Why oh why did I wait so long!?!
-ejm (me), in praise of prunes, blog from OUR kitchen
What a relief that I finally managed to use up a few more prunes to make these tarts. What an extra relief that they were again such a hit. I’ll definitely be making these tarts again. And more often than every three years. We may even have to go out and buy more prunes. Yes, these tarts ARE that good.
I did make a couple of changes from the time before:
- I added whole wheat flour to the pastry.
- Rather than making one large tart, I decided to make several small ones.
But I don’t have any tart tin. Luckily, we live next door to a most wonderful cook who has all kinds of fabulous things in her kitchen. She rummaged through her cake tin cupboard, pulling out small quiche pans, little individual pie plates. Here’s how the conversation went:
me: Rats. I was hoping you had one of those tart tins like a muffin tin but shallower?
she: (rummaging) I’ve got this “top of the muffin” pan….
me: Yes!!! That’s perfect!
With thanks and promises to bring tarts when returning the pan, back home I skipped, clutching the “top of the muffin” pan (I’m so gauche. I had no idea there is really such a thing as a “top of the muffin” pan. It looks just like a tart pan to me) to make tarts galore.
When I was pre-baking the tart shells, I didn’t think it was necessary to bake the little pastry stars too. I thought they’d bake when I baked the filling in the pastry.
What foolishness. Of course the filling is going to be done far more quickly when it’s in a little tiny shell.
So. After the filling was done, I removed each little underdone pastry star and put them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, baked them til golden and as soon as I could touch them without shrieking “owwww Hot! Hot!” I put them back on top of the tarts.
I do like the look of the tarts with the little pastry stars on top but still haven’t quite decided what the smart procedure for baking them is. Here are my options:
- Fully prebake the pastry stars and place them on the tarts directly after the filling is cooked.
- Partially prebake the pastry stars and place them on the tarts before the filling is cooked.
- Forget about the stars and leave the tarts hatless.
What do you think is the best plan?
Here’s what I did to make the tarts:
- ¾ c unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ c whole wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp (give or take) salted butter
- pinch salt
- 3 Tbsp (give or take) cold water
- 111 gm (½ c) pitted prunes
- boiling water (enough to cover prunes)
- 1 large onion
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- pinch salt
- ¼ tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 60 gm (or thereabouts) Danish blue cheese
- Pastry: Preheat oven to 400F. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter. Pour in just enough cold water to make dough. Mix as little as possible. Roll out, cut rounds and place in tart pan (I used my neighbour’s small muffin pan). Prick the bottoms liberally with a fork. (I completely forgot to do this – it didn’t seem to matter). Bake until golden – 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside on counter when done.
- Filling While the pastry is baking, cut the pitted prunes in quarters (this way you can remove any rogue pits), put them in a bowl and pour enough boiling water to just cover the prunes. Set the bowl aside for 20 minutes.
- Thinly slice the onion. Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium heat. Pour in oil and add onions. Cook until they begin to wilt. Add salt. Continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are transluscent with a tinge of gold. Add cider vinegar and continue cooking till all the liquid is absorbed. The onions will be quite soft but it’s desirable if some of the slices are still a bit firm.
- Turn the oven down to 350F (the tart shells should be baked and sitting on the counter)
- Use a pestle and mortar to finely grind the mustard seeds. Add powdered mustard, prunes and prune juice to the onions and cook til most of the liquid is absorbed.
- Spoon the onion/prune mixture into the tart shells. Crumble cheese overtop and bake about 15 minutes until the cheese is lightly golden.
Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Before the tarts were out of the oven, I divulged the fact that I had used wholewheat flour in the pastry. Oh my. Disapproving frowns galore!!
Then, as I was pulling the tarts out of the oven, the phone rang. The message? Our meeting was cancelled because of too much snow on the roads.
We each tasted a tart; all frowns disappeared. We both agreed that the onions and blue cheese are strong enough to compliment the whole wheat in the pastry.
We tasted another tart (they’re very small). We both agreed that it was a great thing that the meeting was cancelled. It meant more tarts for us!!
Yes. These tarts are fabulous!! So fabulous that I’ll have to make them again soon.
And again. And again.
Hmmm, I wonder if I hadn’t better put prunes on the grocery list just in case we run out.
Don’t worry about having to wait until next Christmas to make these tarts. Make them for any festive dinner.
Let’s see now. Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day are coming up. But why wait til February? I see from looking at Creative Party Source that there are plenty of festive occasions coming up in January:
17: Customer Service Day
20: Cheese Day
23: National Pie Day
And I don’t know how the Creative Party Source missed listing Robbie Burns Day on the 25th! Sure, these tarts aren’t exactly Haggis but I bet you there’d be plenty of people at the Robbie Burns Day dinner who would be thrilled to have these tarts with their Scotch.
But wait a minute. What am I saying? You don’t need to wait for a festive occasion to make these tarts; make them any time! Hmmm, how about right now?