Chef Victor Loy is like any of us, "I didn't [like] tomatoes immediately when I first tried it at a very young age." It changed when he turned 10 and went on a family trip to Cameron Highlands where "they encouraged me to try raw cherry tomatoes."
Young Loy must have had inherent traits for a great chef-in-the-making. While we were still pinching cherry tomatoes between our fingers and watching them burst in delight, he was analysing flavour profiles.
"Much to my surprise, I realised that the plump, sweet little red fruit had a savoury burst of flavour," Loy quips.
All the ingredients Loy needs for his Tart aux Tomatoes today.
Ever since Loy began his professional culinary career, he's often reached back to that unforgettable day in his childhood.
While many cringe at the sight of a tomato in their plates, Loy snaps, "I don't personally think there's any bad tomato dish."
Tomatoes are conventionally found in salads, sauces, "in soup, stir-fried with eggs," or as Loy suggests, "confit the tomatoes with capers and lemon to go with a nicely grilled fish." But tomatoes are often the supporting actor, and seldom the "main ingredient".
Loy has recently tried to place the tomato on pedestal. He made a Plum-Salted Tomatoes small plate inspired by Taiwanese pickled vegetables. "The challenge was to maintain the integrity and structure of the tomato." He wanted to retain the tactile bite of a fresh tomato, but simultaneously "a burst of flavours."
Likewise, he's preparing a Tart aux Tomatoes today. Tomato is the focus once again.
Chef Loy preparing the tart base. He's mixing softened butter, grated parmesan cheese, and flour into a dough.
"Typically for tomato tarts, people would use a puff pastry as the base. I didn't want the flaky texture that comes with puff pastries because I prefer to eat the tart neatly with my hands," Loy continues to explain that puff pastry might puncture the delicate skins of tomatoes.
More interesting is how Loy will bring the tomatoes to a semi-cook. He wanted to experiment with that, for "tomatoes are most commonly eaten very cooked or raw."
A semi-cooked tomato will "maintain the natural structure of the tomato," meaning it wouldn't be too mushy.
Tart base dough ready after kneading. Keep the doughball cling wrapped for at least an hour.
Tomatoes are fool-proof ingredients. The only challenge, Loy thinks, is for home-cooks to ensure "that they use a good, sharp knife to cut through the tomatoes without crushing the fruit."
And cooks tend to over-complicated a dish. "Tomatoes lose a good percentage of quality...once we start to do too much to it."
Loy is using Roma tomatoes sourced from Italy. But they "can also be found in Cold Storage." The sweetness of these tomatoes is given context with a savoury Parmigiano-Reggiano-based sable. "[It] introduces depth to the dish. Cheese and tomatoes [go] perfectly well together." Here, Loy shares his four-part recipe.
Once blanched, Loy skins the tomatoes, and pats them dry on paper towels.
Tart Aux Tomatoes
100 grams Parmesan Cheese
100 grams Flour
100 grams Butter
1. In a mixing bowl, mix all the softened butter, grated parmesan cheese and flour.
2. Work mixture into a dough, where all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
3. Do not attempt to dust more flour. Keep dough ball wrapped, and place it in the chiller for at least an hour.
1 Tomato Roma
2 Tomato Cherry
1 Tomato Zebra
2 Tomato Sungold
2 Tomato Vernisagge
￼￼￼1. Prepare a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water.
2. Score all the tomatoes with a parring knife.
3. Drop tomatoes batch by batch into boiling water for 20 - 30 seconds.
4. Once the tomatoes are lifted from the boiling water, shock it in a bowl of ice water.
5. Skin tomatoes and pat tomatoes dry with paper towel.
6. Slice tomatoes at least 1cm thick and place it on a grill to drip off excess water.
Sliced tomatoes on a paper towel.
Baking Tart Base
1. Roll out dough into a round pie, at least 1.5cm thick on baking pan.
2. Use your fingertips to mould indentations into the tart base to hold tomatoes.
3. Arrange tomatoes over the parmesan sable dough and slightly press each tomato into the tart.
4. Pop the tart into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for a good 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Once ready and golden, take out the baking pan and leave it for another three to five minutes to cool.
Arrange sliced tomatoes over parmesan sable dough and slightly press each tomato into the tart.
30 grams Chevre Goat Cheese
10 grams Herbs, e.g. Cresses, Basil, Mint
10 millimetres Aged Balsamico Syrup
10 millimetres Extra Virgin Olive Oik
1 gram Fleur de Sel
2 grams Black Pepper
1. Slide tart over to a serving dish.
2. Sprinkle Fleur de Sel and crack some fresh black pepper over the tart.
3. Crumble goat cheese over the tart.
4. Finish with a glug of extra virgin olive oil and drizzle balsamic syrup over.
5. Serve warm.
Herbs like basil, mint, and cresses alongside a slab of French goat cheese.
"The tart should taste savoury, cheesy, and sour – with all the natural elements of tomatoes contributing to [overall] flavour. In terms of texture, the crust should be firm enough to hold," and you should be able to eat the tart off your hands. "The centre of the tart will be softer."
Loy grating some goat cheese over the tart.
Chef Loy in his usual quick-witted self, deliberately served the tomato tart to people who weren't fond of tomatoes. His conclusion? "I felt happy! ...They loved the dish."
Victor Loy is head chef at Plentyfull, located at 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millennia Walk.
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