Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Courgette Tart (egg-free, dairy-free, gluten-free)

So this is a tale of the bike ride, the neighbour, the enormous courgette and the curious twists that life can take.

In a bid to salvage a morning of squabbling, bored children and mild maternal depression, I brightly informed my small ones that we would be going on our bikes to fetch bread from the shop. In fact I didn’t present this fait accompli, I made the mistake of floating the idea with the assembled children, whereupon three agreed and one violently disagreed. I really should learn; never allow choice, always dictate. As the three in favour gaily assembled their bikes and helmets on the drive, I fed the dissenter some chocolate and hissed that he would be in an awful lot of trouble if he whinged all the way there and all the way back. What a lovely sunny vision of family harmony and perfect parenting.

Off we went, with whingeing coming from all directions. Ahead, from the one who couldn’t pedal properly. From the side, from the one who fell off and scraped her knee. Behind, from the small one whose helmet was over her eyes, and also from me, as yet another persisted in riding on the wrong side of the road. By the time we reached the shop, the mild maternal depression was crying out for a year’s supply of SSRI’s. I almost did break down when I noted that the shop was closed on a Wednesday. It was Wednesday.

With that familiar ‘what-a-crap-Mother-you-are' feeling welling up inside me, I turned my cavalcade around and we headed back up the lane. The mood brightened slightly as we stopped by a field of wheat and listened to the sound of chewing. After some non-scientific tests (kicking the area of wheat that was being chewed to see if the noise stopped), we concluded that many mice were having their lunch.

Our experiment was interrupted when one of our neighbours, Mme Hamelet, appeared with her two grandchildren. We chatted politely, then both watched in surprise as my eldest started to chat to the grandchildren who are of a similar age. I did not know that my clever girl could converse so capably in French, much less introduce her siblings, ask names and ages and generally be rather engaging. The neighbour asked whether my girls would like to come and play after lunch.

Oh how lovely to be given a focus for the day! We all pedalled home as fast as we could, rushed through our lunch, quickly baked some cookies to take (I can be a good Mum sometimes), and duly returned for our 2pm rendezvous. I waved them good-bye and the girls ran off for their full-immersion (free) French lesson.

When I came back to pick them up, they were not best pleased to see me. The Anglo-French encounter had gone extremely well and they managed to wangle an extra half hour, with Mme Hamelet agreeing to drop them back a bit later. We returned the play-date the following day, and everyone is very satisfied with these burgeoning friendships.

Mme Hamelet gave me an enormous courgette from her garden. It was so huge I enquired about the fertiliser she uses; I have a sneaking suspicion it could be radioactive. Plutonium or no, the courgette was very delicious, especially when teamed with cherry tomatoes, garlic and some Dijon mustard.

Vive la France et bon app├ętit!
Mme Hamelet's Courgette Tart
If you can eat wheat flour, but are avoiding dairy, use:
300g wholemeal flour
a large pinch of mixed dried herbs
  • Rub the spread into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre, add 3 tbsps cold water and mix with a spoon to make a workable dough. Squidge together with your hands. Add a little more water if it seems too dry, and a little more flour if it seems too wet. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 mins. See below for rest of method.
For Gluten-Free Pastry
200g sweet potato, (peeled, cooked, cooled and mashed)
125g rice flour (+ up to 5 extra tbsps)
Good pinch of dried mixed herbs
Some baking parchment
Some dried rice(about 100g)
For the filling:
3-4 tbsps olive oil
the innards of 2 medium tomatoes
1/8 of a tsp of ground red chillis (or chilli flakes from a jar)
20 cherry tomatoes
a large courgette
2 cloves garlic
2-4 tbsps Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper
Good pinch of dried mixed herbs
If you can eat cheese: approximately 100g gruyere cheese (or cheddar)
  • Up to 36 hours before, cook the sweet potato by steaming or boiling, then mash it until smooth. Spread it out over a plate and chill in the fridge. The pre-requisite for using the mashed potato is that it be very cold, so you need to do this part at least 4 hours before starting the pie
  • Put the rice flour, xanthan gum, herbs and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and mix together. Add the dairy-free spread and rub it into the flour mix until it looks vaguely like breadcrumbs. It won't look like very fine breadcrumbs, but don't worry
  • Add the sweet potato mash and using the back of a metal spoon mix and squidge it all together until it forms a dough. It could be that the dough is too wet and sticky to work with, so add more rice flour, tablespoon by tablespoon. Mix after each addition until you get a soft, pliable dough that isn't sticky. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes
  • When ready to make the tart, heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius / Gas 4
  • Remove your pastry (gluten-free or otherwise) from the fridge. Roll it out to a thickness of about 3mm, this amount will easily fit a fluted tart tin of 26cm, possibly one a little larger (note if your tart tin does not have a removeable base, you might want to grease it, or line it with a circle of baking parchment)
  • Gather the pastry over your rolling pin and lay it over the tart tin. Push it gently down to fit the tin. Using the back of a knife, trim off any excess that is hanging over the side. Stab the base of the tin all over with a fork ( a nice cathartic exercise if arguing with your loved one)
  • Place in fridge and leave to cool off...(also a useful technique when arguing with said loved one)
  • Finely slice the courgette and place into a rectangular lasagne dish / roasting tin or other rectangular receptacle suitable for coating vegetables with oil
  • Cut all the cherry tomatoes in half and place in dish/tin/receptacle. Finely chop garlic and set aside
  • Cut large tomatoes in half and squeeze all juice and pips into dish where courgettes and cherry toms are residing. Add the 3-4 tbsps olive oil, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Using your hands mix everything around, until all veg is coated. Leave to marinade whilst you move onto the next step
  • Remove pastry-lined tart tin from fridge. Cover with baking parchment, and pour the dried rice into the centre of the baking parchment. Gently smooth out rice so that the base of the tin is covered. Trim off any excess baking parchment
  • Place in the centre of the oven and bake like this for 10 minutes. Check after 5 mins, if the edges of the crust are looking too brown, reduce oven to 160 degrees. After 10 mins remove tart from oven, remove baking parchment and rice, and return to oven but only for 1 minute (to try and dry off the base)
  • Remove tart from oven. Let it cool for about 10 minutes if possible, but if not, forge on
  • Spread Dijon Mustard over the base of the tart using the back of a spoon. Then cover the base with courgette slices. Arrange half the cherry toms over the courgette slices, and sprinkle half the garlic over it all. If you can eat cheese, sprinkle over half the cheese at this point
  • Repeat this process again. Sprinkle the dried mixed herbs all over the top. You could also use a tbsp of the marinade and baptise the tart, alternatively preserve the marinade and put it on the table when you serve the tart, I didn't find this 'dry', but some might like extra juice
  • Cover the pretty tart with tin foil and place back in the oven at 180 degrees C for 15-20 mins. Remove the tin foil and bake for approximately 10 more minutes. (If the cherry tomatoes start to get too brown during this time, cover again with tin foil)
  • Serve this with a green salad (if you wish, but don't be bullied by me, do as you please). This tart is also good the following evening after a run, taken cold from the fridge and eaten on a garden bench with a good big glass of rose...
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007


Brom said...

What a great post, as always! So many common threads there I can relate to, whinging - my how expert they become over the years.

The "What a crap mother I am" is also commonly heard. That is almost always the sign of a GOOD mother, because you care.

I thought a big courgette was a marrow? And did it glow?

Miss Thistle said...

It's strange how planned family trips out are not often as successful as we anticipate. Our not inexpensive trip to Legoland was not quite as good as we thought, although my son did enjoy the log flume, and didn't mind queuing for an hour. His parents did not enjoy this bit. The highlight of the day was bumping into (not literally) Emma Thompson in the toilets and then trying to stop my mother pointing and staring. A £14.50 day in Harewood House (courtesy of my daughters Blue Peter badge and my own 'student card') was a great success. I think you're a great Mum anyway!!

Suffolkmum said...

You made me laugh out loud - so often those little family trips that sound so easy and engaging turn into a collective, epic whinge-fest, at least in this house. Do agree with it's far better to dictate than allow choice!! Glad it turned out so well though. I tried the untidy apple tart below too - delicious. I am a serial clutter maker, but also have a friend whose house is buried under a pile of mess, and then I get to feel very smug.

Stay at home dad said...

Your 'focus' comment is so true. In fact it's the essence of childcare, isn't it.

I can't cook anything quickly that doesn't involve a microwave ...

dulwichmum said...

What a cheery lovely story. I loved the description of you all setting off. What a find, a neighbour with a child who wants to play. I hope you are enjoying the summer.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

hello Brom, thank-you for your kind words... i really don't do whingeing, i suspect I am allergic to it. I am taking comfort from your 'GOOD mother' theory.
I am pretty sure it wasn't a marrow! but have checked and indeed the french for courgette and marrow is courgette (logical). so now i look very dim, but i am sticking to my guns, it was not marrow-esque, it was a big fat courgette. I suspect it did glow, but did not put it to the test. she SAID she only used natural fertilisers...hmmm.

Miss T, My commiserations for the Legoland sortie...but how exciting that you saw ET...and i'm still laughing at your mother, do send her my regards. I am a great mum tonight as I have drunk some wine and just keep telling them to push off back to bed, I can't do anything about the heat can i?!

SuffolkMum, ah how the best-laid maternal engaging family trips oft go awry. Why don't we just buy them X-box's? (i'm not sure i've spelt that right, now I feel like a doddering luddite). So very pleased you tried the pie! ~And do make sure you hang on to your friend, it's so therapeutic to pop 'round and feel better about yourself...!

SAHD, your comment has made me has made me think that I have very little 'focus' for tomorrow and I'd better dig out my thinking cap. After another day slaving over the oven in temperatures of 36 degrees C in the shade, I'm beginning to think that microwaves are the way forward.

Hello DulwichMum, glad you liked the story, it turned out ok in the end! Yes, the granddaughter down the road was a result! Summer is going fine, although weather set to change again...may have to switch to your tipple of Chablis to see me through!

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Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Taken from the fridge and eaten on a bench with a nice cold glass of rose - yes please. If you don't mind I'll pass on the run first!

We shall be in France within the week then onto Spain, we'll then take our time coming home, maybe meet up with friends who are planning on renting a gite somewhere in the Vendee. I'm going with the thought that it will be a hard trip. That way I can be delighted when we return having had at least some fun! for sandcastle cake tin. Not sure it's worth the money. That said the children love it...

Elsie Button said...

i think that was very very very brave to take 4 children on a bike ride! - i find it hard enough taking myself on one. and glad it turned out happy in the end - what a clever daughter you have!

mutterings and meanderings said...

Yum. I was seeking inspiration for the courgettes I am given from the parentals' greenhouse

Anonymous said...

Vive Mme Hamalet and the radioactive courgette !! How cool that you know your neighbours. You never cease to impress me Pig. I can't believe you had the time to bake some cookies before dropping off the girls. I think you are a fab mum and I hope one day I will be asking for your advice on mother earth skills !! Your weekend visitor

rilly super said...

PITK, this sounds yummy. I actually had some courgette cake recently in a right-on veggy coffee shop I mistook for macdonalds whilst out with the children and it was quite a surprise. I must say I was at first disappointed when your 'huge courgette' story clearly wasn't going in the direction I had anticipated but it was heart warming nevertheless. If only my own children had taken to the local language as readily as your own, sigh. Hmmm, what is 'courgette' in french I wonder...

Marianne said...

Oh good. I have an enormous courgette growing in the vegetable patch. I don't think it realises it's supposed to be a courgette. Now I have a purpose in life!

I loved your description of the outing and of how things never go according to the idyllic visions we create as we make plans with children. But how well it all turned out, and how often life will seem to disappoint and then offer something entirely unexpected and even better to compensate. I hope the friendship thrives for all of you.

Frog in the Field said...

Hello Pig, sorry I haven't visited you for a little while.
Our day is full of whinging. The small one wants everything the middle one has. The middle one is very tired today and the big one just wants to play Spider solitair and listen to My Chemical Romance, darling husband is v. concerned about Foot and Mouth and his back is about to 'go' and I'm very tired from a screaming small person in the night who seemed to eat something she shouldn't have.
Eldest daughter (oh the hormones!) is excellent at giving 'the look' with her whinging because she's bored, we've done nothing this holiday.....she's forgotten the parties, barbeques, sleepovers and holiday!!
I think you must be jolly fab to brave cycling with them all, it really does scare the hell out of me.
But, we have a new plan, to work out which of your recipes is our favourite and start with that one, and work through the list!
Top Tucker!

Mya said...


Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!

I've been off on a sojourn - only to return to a garden full of zeppellin sized courgettes.

I have a friend with four children (I only have one of the little blighters myself) - and she's ALWAYS moaning on at me 'Don't offer them choices - TELL THEM what they're going to do.' She's four times better at this whole Mum business than me (as you are too, clearly) - so I usually follow her advice. And it usually works, too!

Mya x

Drunk Mummy said...

Dear Pig - I too can identify with the 'jolly family outing'. However, I differ from you in that my familiar feeling is usually of the 'what-a-crap-family-you-are' variety. You are obviously a much nicer person. Glad it all turned out well in the end!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

A@LF, hope you have a lovely trip, it sounds like lots of kilometres, but the Vendee is very pretty. Thanks for cake tin link!

E.B, I'm not sure if it was brave or's a good thing there isn't much traffic, their highway code skills need a little honing. We did a long country ramble instead yesterday, far more controlled, although still the whingeing! My daughter is indeed a clever bunny (glow of pride)

M&M, go forth and eat courgettes!

Anon/weekend visitor, hello, thank-you for your kind sentiments. I'm ashamed to say we have had so many visitors, and you're being a little coy...are you the visitor whose other half drank my secret recipe brandy? Aren't you in Denmark? (or was it Norway) Well, you are very welcome to come again anyway!

Rilly, how brave to try courgette cake...i'm quite intrigued, may have to have a stab at that. And how silly of me, even with an absent husband the only use for the courgette that sprang to mind was to cook it! I wonder if she's got any more....
I think it's a bit much expecting your children to come to grips with the local language so soon. Give it time, I've heard that Northern has many guttural vowel sounds and a very tricky glottal stop that you need to master early on to stand any hope of being understood. I wish them luck.

Marianne your comment was so succint and eloquent, I have no words! I hope you enjoy the you know at what point a courgette becomes a marrow? (See Brom's comment at the top!)

FITF, and here's me whingeing, your burdens seem harder to bear...especially the foot and mouth thing, i really hope that calms down. I'm excited about your plan of cooking all my recipes...really? Any feedback welcome (critical, nasty feedback is better in an email though)

MYA, hope you had a lurvely time camping...and zeppelin courgettes, are they radioactive as well? It's funny, the more children I have, the less I seem to know. I thought i knew everything about parenting when i just had one...I just feel bewildered with four!

Drunk Mummy, lovely to have you back! I tried your approach today at bedtime...but then the other voice in my head chimed in, 'ah yes, but they're only children, you're the adult, etc etc etc.' What the hell, I've been for a lovely run, i've now officially earned my tea and a big glass of red wine, hurrah!



How do you manage to cook so much? We're subsisting on a diet of quinoa and salad in our house because we've just no time to cook. Most of which ends up on the floor and stays there.

(I truly am a bad mother, I'm abadoning everyone for 16 days for flights of fancy.)

I don't suppose you know any vegan, wheat free restaurants, cafes, etc... in Edinburgh do you?
Or does anyone else?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hello SMOV... I manage to cook because I don't really clean! I'm sure you're not a bad mother, you sound quite a clever mother to be leaving for 16 days on a flight of fancy - every good mother deserves a break!
I don't know of any such restos or cafes in Edinburgh, but if you post a message on the Gluten Free Message Board, there's a v.good chance that someone might - it's a really good resource, everyone is very helpful and supportive, and they reply fast!
It's at:

Good Luck and have a lovely time,

Anonymous said...

hello Pig

We will be seing each other on Friday. I am your weekend visitor ! Have become adicted to your blog !! Can't wait to see you.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Ha! So you are weekend visitor TO BE...not already been. Now it's clear. the champagne is a-chilling ;-)

lady macleod said...

radioactive fertilizer? oh well, could be worse, could be exploding.

I am so pleased the children have found some playmates! See, it was the Universe working for you - GOOD mother takes children out for exercise and fun in the fresh air - shop is closed - children and mother have a bonding experience over wheat - locals arrive and offer peace and an afternoon festival - GOOD mum bakes cookies and basked in her own cleverness!

farming-frenchstyle said...

Thank goodness there are other "crap mothers" about. I forget the dates of my kid's birthdays - well when is 24th July and the other is 25th August (I think that's it) wouldn't you? The eldest is easy 7th December and she reminds me a month in advance - not much good though when you are two dates in front of yourself as I have been this week.

Marianne said...

When does a courgetter become a marrow? Possibly before it becomes a pumpkin, which is what a gardening friend tells me I have in the veg patch. Will look out for a good pumpkin recipe here before too long, I hope.

elizabethm said...

Came to your blog via suffolkmum's and what a find! love your recipes and we have courgettes coming out of our ears this week. I do so remember the crap mother sensation - mine are adult now and seem to think I did ok, best not to ask when they are teenagers!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Lady M, I am going with your Karmic version of my bike ride, perhaps I really AM a good mother!

Marianne, I'm such a gardening durr-brain, I'm not entirely convinced that a courgette doesn't eventually become a pumpkin. Gardening irony sails way over my head! Pumpkins though, i must start thinking about Halloween menus.

elizabethm, thank-you for your visit, and what an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as SuffolkMum! Top tip about not asking their opinion of my parenting when they are teenagers, thank-you.

Chef Mom said...

Very nice blog, with awesome pictures. I will be trying many of your recipes in the near future. I wish I had found your blog when I was breastfeeding my son and had to avoid dairy/egg/soy/wheat/peanuts/shellfish/cant-remember-anymore

I started a blog recently so I wouldn't forget some of the recipes I devised for my. And so our families scattered all over the world could be reassured that even with his allergies, we were eating good stuff :-)