About three years ago I started volunteering with FoodCycle Bristol, a pretty amazing group of volunteers who cycle around local shops and supermarkets on a Saturday morning, taking all the fresh fruit and veg that would have been thrown away and spend ingthe next two and a half hours making a free three course meal for as many people as show up.
I was always particularly happy when we got a lot of peppers or a lot of aubergines (they are both v. easy to roast and stuff to make great centrepieces), mushrooms are also a great healthy “bulk-up”-er, useful for when you’re cooking for 50 people.
This was something we made up as part of the starter for one of the first meals I ever volunteered at, and is so easy and so popular it has been used a good few times since with various additions and substitutions, depending on what’s in the trailers.
Aubergine Pate and Balsamic Onion Tart- Recipe
For one tart (two people- I just ate it all and am uncomfortable)
1/2 an aubergine
150g mushrooms (any kind)
5 cloves garlic
1 large handful plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 handful walnuts, lightly crushed
1/2 tablespoon capers
1 red onion
250g puff pastry
Salt, pepper and paprika
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
Start by heating a little sunflower or vegetable oil in a frying pan on a medium heat, and chop your red onion as it warms up.
Once chopped, add the onion to the pan with a tablespoonful or so of balsamic vinegar, and stir as it softens in the pan.
Keep an eye on that and make sure it doesn’t burn, turning down to a low heat if necessary.
As the onions are frying, roughly chop the aubergine and mushrooms, and tip them, along with 4 of the 5 garlic cloves, into a roasting tray.
Drizzle with a little sunflower oil, salt, pepper and paprika (I use a lot, up to a dessertspoonful) and stir until evenly coated.
Put in your pre-heated oven, check after 15 minutes; roast until softened. Turn your oven down to 180 degrees.
Remove the skins from the roasted cloves of garlic, before tipping the whole tray (without the garlic skins of course) into a blender/any kind of food processor/into a bowl to use a stick blender). Add the remaining raw garlic clove (peeled!) and blend until a rough paste forms.
Better blenders than mine will create a more uniform texture, luckily I am a fan of particularly garlic-y clumps.
Roll out your puff pastry onto baking paper (or use ready rolled, I tend to go by whatever’s in the freezer) until it is about 1/2cm or less thick.
Spread the aubergine “pate” onto the pastry base, and top with your tomato halves, balsamic onion, walnuts and capers, plus an extra sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Place your raw tart on a baking tray and slide into the oven, and cook for another half an hour.
Alternatively, I have happily put the same toppings on toast before for a much quicker, possibly nicer (I am going off puff pastry after eating so much just now) snack-y dinner.