Our local supermarket’s male employees tend not to be slim, suntanned and, above all, smiling; nor do they wear their hair in the mini ponytail once popular with hipsters and now de rigueur with rugby players but yet there he was….the man from Marseille, purveyor of olives, chillies, pistou, tapenade and confit d’ail, illuminating that bleak nether world that lies between the checkouts and the exits, a purgatory where souls become aware of what they have just spent and that they themselves are spent and yet the day stretches out before them still. In this heart of greyness stood a wooden table laden with so many huge glass bowls in which lay piled the most beautiful fruits of the Mediterranean indolently bathing in golden olive oil. When confronted by a plethora of good things, good things in the way that Jane Grigson wrote of things that she thought to be good, I try to carefully consider which of them I greedily want and which of them I need and, if I conclude that I do indeed need one or some of them, I painstakingly assess which one or ones they may be. Then I take them all….or I would if I could. Shopping for food, be it in a shop, market or, sadly and more usually, in a supermarket, is one of my great pleasures and, as with all my great pleasures, financial probity is my watchword; it might be worth mentioning at this point that in my working life I would regularly receive compliments from my bank and my many suppliers mentioning my “outstanding balance”, indeed, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that few people, apart from the Great Blondin, would have received more.
After several seconds of deep reflection I had narrowed down my selection to but a couple of dozen essential larder items and a few other frivolities…which I quickly rejected on mentally assessing the worth of the loose change in my hand..”be sensible, Roger,” I said to myself “olives and stuff like that can’t cost much” went my thought process ” they grow on trees..and this isn’t a shop, it’s a table, but still, leave out the frivolities, stick to essentials”.
“How much will that be?” I asked, confidently holding out my hand in the palm of which nestled the equivalent of a six year old’s weekly pocket money. Odd how fast a smile can disappear….and how fast I became a mind reader capable of understanding “daft old cunt” in one of the more obscure Marseille patois.
When I returned from the cash machine I handed over a king’s ransom ( not a very important or well loved king it must be said) and left with three little bags of essentials. There is a happy ending to this story and here it is:
A small tart of tapenade, mozzarella and tomatoes by me
For tarts like this I always use a pate brisée from Patricia Wells’ “Bistro Cooking”…but use what you like, although I definitely would advise shortcrust over puff pastry for this tart.
175gms ordinary flour
105gms cold butter, cut into pieces
pinch of sea salt
3 tbsps of iced water
Put the flour and butter in a food processor and process for about 10 secs until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the iced water and then pulse 6-8 times until it starts to come together. Do not let it form a ball. Remove from the processor and place on grease proof paper. Flatten the dough to a disc, wrap and refrigerate.
For the filling:
I just made a small tart with some left over pastry so it’s up to you to decide on quantities for the filling. The idea is to line a tart tin with the pastry and chill it for 30 mins. Then spread tapenade over the base of the tart. Take some creme fraiche, beat grated Parmesan into it and spread a layer over the tapenade. Scatter torn lumps of mozzarella over this, season with black pepper, and then add a layer of slices of real tomatoes, by which I mean tomatoes with good flavour that are not full of seeds. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Cook in a preheated oven of 200C for approximately 45 minutes.