The weather is most definitely not playing ball, is it?
Every time we get a glimpse of blue sky and pelt out into the garden with our deckchairs and inflatable paddling pools, along come the banks of cloud, plunging temperatures and spitting rain.
That said, I was at an airshow the other week, and managed to get pretty nasty sunburn sitting under thick grey stratus cloud for several hours. I appear to have lost my ability to tan well. Bang goes that Vogue cover.
This week, then, despite the pretty substandard summer we’re having, a relentlessly cheery, warm-weather dish.
The idea for this came from a glimpsed photograph in a magazine of a cream and fruit feuilletine dessert – one of those beautifully light puds constructed from fresh berries, crisp buttery pastry, and pillow-soft piles of whipped Chantilly cream.
A good idea, I thought, and very timely.
However, I like to alternate my weekly recipe between the sweet and the savoury, and I had a savoury recipe to come up with this week.
I thought of what other things might go well layered up between sheets of crisp pastry, and decided upon a whipped tuna concoction, light and fresh.
From there, it was a short mental jump to all things Mediterranean that go so well together – grilled summery vegetables, anchovies, good ripe tomato, aromatic basil, musky olives and crunchy cool salad leaves.
Essentially what we have here is just a posh sandwich – the pastry is baked under weight, so it stays nice and thin, but is wonderfully crisp and golden, strewn with herbs and sea salt.
The tuna is bound with mayonnaise and crème fraîche, along with a little celery and shallot for crunch, and then we finish with a selection of chargrilled vegetables and crisp, refreshing gem lettuce leaves, plus the tang of marinated anchovies and some cool, fresh tomato.
All the elements can be made up in advance, so it’s a great way of starting a barbecue meal, for instance, or it makes a nice light lunch all by itself.
One of these millefeuilles and a glass of rosé and you could almost convince yourself you were basking in the sun on the Croisette in Cannes.
It’s a playful dish, so do please feel free to tinker.
It would work well with salmon, or even something like diced smoked chicken, or you could use whipped cream cheese, ricotta or Quark for a vegetarian-friendly version.
A vous la choix.For the pastry layers:
2 x rolls ready-made puff pastry
A couple of sprigs rosemary
A couple of sprigs thyme
For the tuna:
2 x 160g tins tuna in spring water (dolphin-friendly, please)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tbsp crème fraîche
1 stick celery
1 small shallot
The juice and grated zest of a lemon
Maldon salt and freshly-ground white pepper
For the crudité layer:
A small punnet of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and shredded
A few pitted green olives
Grilled artichoke hearts (shop-bought is fine)
1 large courgette
1 small Gem lettuce
A few rocket leaves
A couple of good, ripe plum tomatoes
200g marinated anchovies
Fresh basil leaves
Baking sheets & greaseproof paper
First, make the pastry layers. Heat the oven to 190ºC / Gas 5. Pop a layer of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet. Unroll the pastry and cut into 12
suitably-sized rectangles or squares. Finely chop the rosemary and thyme and sprinkle liberally over the pastry. Place another sheet of greaseproof over the pastry, then another baking sheet and something with a little weight, like a roasting tin.
Bake, checking occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, until uniformly golden and crisp. It’s a bit fiddly, so have those oven gloves ready. When cooked, remove the pastry shapes from the oven, sprinkle with Maldon salt and allow to cool, before storing in an airtight container.
To make the grilled vegetables, thinly slice the aubergine and courgette and brush with a little olive oil. Heat a ridged grill pan until smoking hot, and cook the vegetable slices in batches until well-seared.
Set aside to cool and make up the tuna mixture. Finely chop the celery and the shallot into very small dice. Drain the tins of tuna and tip the fish into a bowl. Add the crème fraîche and enough mayonnaise to just bind the mixture, then beat furiously into the tuna until the mixture is smooth.
Add the diced celery and shallot, and the lemon juice and zest. Mix well, check the seasoning, and refrigerate until required.
To serve, stack up three pastry shapes per guest. Spread a little of the tuna mix on the bottom two pieces of pastry, and top with a selection of the griddled vegetables, drained anchovy fillets and thinly-sliced plum tomato, along with a few crisp salad leaves, shredded sun-dried tomato and olives.
Carefully stack up the ‘sandwiches’ with a final piece of pastry on top.
Garnish with fresh basil, and a few extra bits of vegetables and leaves.