The Daily Spud

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Make Food, Not Excuses

Yes, ’tis true. There’s nothing worse than turning up to a potluck empty-handed when everyone else has brought dishes that people would stampede to get to. Yet, despite having had the best part of two months to ponder the latest five star makeover – which called for a little gourmet creativity to be applied to our choice of seasonal farmer’s market produce – I sat there yesterday morning, deadline looming and nary an idea in my head about what to bring to the makeover party.


I sipped my coffee and considered the options. Deploying the ‘laptop ate my blogpost’ excuse was top of the list, followed closely by a handwritten sicknote from my Ma. Alternatively, I could take my chances, potter down the road to my local vegetable vendor and hope for inspiration to strike (or, failing that, lightning, in which case I would probably have singed hair but an excellent reason for needing an entirely different kind of makeover). Lucky for you (and for my future hairdressing expenses) the lightning stayed away.

Shop signage

My most local source of fruit and veg, after my own backyard, that is

It’s only a small outlet, but this place still manages to sell at least five different kinds of potato, which, as you might expect, gets a big thumbs up from me. Yesterday, though, it was tomatoes which caught my eye, local tomatoes, going for cheap.

This being the only time of year when it makes any sense to buy Irish tomatoes, I filled my bag with the juicy booty. Even at the height of an Irish summer, though, you’re not always assured of getting tomatoes with full, sweet flavour, so, to get the best out my haul, I started to think that a little bit of roasting would be in order (and better, says you, to have roasted tomatoes than frizzled hair).

Down the way, I spied onions and courgettes, which make such a happy threesome when buddied up with tomatoes that I was powerless to resist. By now, I was coming over all Mediterranean-like, so I picked up some spuds for a bit of native Irish balance, while free range eggs, for some reason, seemed like a good idea.

A little while later, and with the addition of some garlic and herbs from the backyard, and a generous glug of olive oil, a tian – or crustless quiche – filled with slow-roasted vegetables, was born. It burst with juicy roasted tomatoes and couldn’t have been more summery if it tried.

Tomato and courgette tian

Tian of tomatoes, courgettes and sunshine

Now, I’d be the first to say that this dish is altogether more rustic than gourmet and, as you’ll see, its flavours do travel a well-worn Mediterranean route. For all that, though, I was more than happy to have it grace my lunch plate, and ’twas surely a far better thing for me to eat this than for the dog to eat my homework, or my hair for that matter.

Summer Vegetable Tian with Tomatoes & Courgette

Tomato and courgette

The name tian, as described by Elizabeth David in Is There a Nutmeg in the House?, derives from the Provençal name for the earthenware dish that this kind of vegetable and egg mixture is usually made in.

The dish could not be easier to put together. Layer the vegetables and herbs in an ovenproof dish, douse with olive oil and slow-roast for an hour or so, then mix the lot with beaten egg, some cheese if you like and return to the oven until set. Then eat.

It’s really a dish to build around what you have to hand. I would have added fennel if there had been any available, along with fresh goat’s cheese or perhaps some feta. You can replace the regular yellow onion with red onion if you like, use oregano instead of marjoram, or add parsley or other herbs of your liking to the mix. It’s all good.

The veg:

  • 3-4 tblsp olive oil plus extra for greasing your dish
  • 1 small-ish courgette, about 250g, cut into 0.5cm rounds
  • 2 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 400g tomatoes, halved if small, quartered if large
  • half a small onion, about 50g, peeled and cut into 1-2cm chunks
  • 1 small potato, about 100g, peeled, cut into 1cm dice, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 x approx. 10cm sprigs rosemary
  • 2 x approx. 10cm sprigs thyme
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

The tian:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped marjoram leaves
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 50g fresh, soft goat’s cheese (optional)
  • 2 tblsp freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

You’ll also need:

  • An ovenproof dish, mine was around 20cm x 20cm and 5cm deep

The Steps:

  • Preheat your oven to 150C
  • Brush your baking dish with some olive oil, then cover the base with a layer of courgette slices. Scatter over the slivered garlic, then add a layer of tomatoes, cut side facing up.
  • Tuck the chunks of onion and the diced potato around the tomatoes. Break the sprigs of rosemary and thyme into 2-3cm lengths and tuck them in around the dish also.
  • Sprinkle with a couple of pinches of coarse salt and a few twists of black pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and place in the oven for about an hour or until the tomatoes have started to wrinkle and the vegetables are still fairly firm but can be pierced easily with a sharp knife.
  • Remove the vegetables from the oven and turn the heat up to 180C.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs well and add the marjoram, salt and a few twists of black pepper. Crumble the goat’s cheese into the mixture if using.
  • Tip the roasted vegetables into the beaten egg and stir to mix, then pour the entire mixture back into your baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan if using.
  • Return to the oven for around 25 minutes or until set and golden on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with salads and the like.

The Variations:

  • If I’d had a small bulb of fennel, I’d certainly have added pieces of that to the vegetable mix

The Results:

  • Serve 2-3, along with salads and what have you.

29 Comments

  1. I realized when I was in England a week or so ago that although I loved the cool weather, it was not good for tomatoes which thrive and sweeten when the weather is hot and dry… some say it’s hot nights that do the trick. Of course, back in NYC the weather is hideous for humans but the tomatoes have been grand. Brilliant of you to use them in a tian to squeeze every drop of flavor from them.. great dish… lovely shots!

  2. Daily Spud

    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    It’s so true, Deana – while we can grow tomatoes here, we’re hard pressed to get the same results as in the Med (or NYC for that matter!) – roasting just helps to bring out the best of what sweetness they have and worked really well here.

  3. Figured out how to add a blogroll! And, as promised, you’re top of the list! :) I’ll be populating it a bit more over the next while. If I don’t break the internet in the meantime.

  4. Daily Spud

    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Top stuff, missus! I suppose you’d best be careful where you apply your Gaga Lady shovel, you never know where they’ve got the internet buried these days :D

  5. Well, I don’t think gourmet and rustic are necessarily mutually exclusive! I am glad inspiration finally struck, looks yummy!

  6. Daily Spud

    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Good point Trix! I’m glad that inspiration finally struck too :)

  7. Reminds me of an old favourite of mine which I got from an Arabella Boxer paperback called “Mediterranean Cookbook” , which I bought 30 years ago from the Paperback Centre, which was in a basement in Wicklow St. She called it Tian also, after the earthenware dish. Here it is:

    1 small onion, chopped
    3 tbsp of olive oil
    2 cloves of garlic, crushed
    1 lb courgettes, grated
    3/4 lb chard, spinach beet or spinach
    2 oz rice
    salt and pepper
    3 eggs
    2 oz Gruyere
    1oz Parmesan

    Cook onion in oil until starting to colour, then add garlic. Add grated courgettes to onion and cook for 5 mins, stirring. Cook chard or spinach beet for 10 mins, or spinach for 5 mins, then drain and rinse in cold water. Squeeze moisture out, then chop. Add to courgettes and cook for 2-3 mins. Boil rice, drain well and add to vegetables with plenty of salt and pepper. Beat eggs and stir in, along with the Gruyere. Tip into oiled gratin dish or tian, sprinkle with Parmesan and bake for 35 mins at 180C / 350F.
    Serves 5 (Yes, thats what it says, 5).

  8. Daily Spud

    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks for that Peter, it sounds lovely! Elizabeth David includes some very similar recipes in the book I referenced in the post – that’s where I first encountered the term tian.

  9. Just had roasted courgettes and tomatoes for dinner, yummy combination!

  10. Daily Spud

    Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    It is a lovely combination, isn’t it Aine? I think I’m going to need to go out and buy more of both!

  11. Interesting and funny read. Glad you were able to pull through and make a fabulous dish.

    Though next time just tell Natasha you have a note from your ma.

    Be well

  12. Daily Spud

    Friday, July 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Cheers Laz, I’ll remember that for next time :)

  13. Glad you were able to make it to the event! For a while actually I thought I wasn’t going to make it myself :)

    The tian with zucchini and tomatoes sounds wonderful, I like the thyme and rosemary in it.

  14. This has everything I look for in food. And, rustic is fine by me. This is classic pairing of summer vegetables. In my Italian family, we would take the same ingredients and add in green beans and make a summer stew of it. Served with crusty bread, it was fabulous. And, in our home every dish may have looked rustic, but it tasted gourmet, as I’m sure your dish does.

  15. Daily Spud

    Friday, July 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    5 Star Foodie: not only do I love the thyme and rosemary, but I especially love that I have them growing in the backyard and that a few freshly cut sprigs of same can lend such flavour to a dish

    Angela: Have to say I love the sound of taking these vegetables and making them into a summer stew – it would be another fabulous way to enjoy the season’s bounty. As for the rustic vs gourmet question, of course you’re right that it’s the taste that matters. This dish stands has no issues on that front :)

  16. I’m visiting from 5 Star Foodie. I love your vegetable tian. It looks like the sunshine of Provence on a plate. I make a similar version using only tomatoes and zucchini. Love the addition of onions and potatoes. Will definitely give this a try.
    Sam

  17. Daily Spud

    Friday, July 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Hi Sam and thanks for visiting! While the tomato and courgette/zucchini are the stars of the dish, I definitely think that the onions and potatoes add a nice extra dimension to it. Hope you enjoy :)

  18. What a great combo of flavors, and I love how bright and sunny your tian is!

  19. I am thinking a whole new cuisine style “Rustic Gourmet”…really lovely dish :)

  20. Daily Spud

    Friday, July 29, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Faith: bright and sunny is exactly where it’s at with this dish :)

    Magic of Spice: “Rustic Gourmet” – I like it!

  21. You pulled it off with much success! This sounds delicious. And I have to tell you that your blog made me so much more aware of the varieties of potatoes during my recent travels. We are not nearly as fortunate. :)

  22. Rustic can still be gourmet! – i like your presentation and appreciate that you have herbs growing in your yard! We’re finally starting a sustainable small harvest in our backyard, too! Here’s to next month’s challenge!

  23. Tians rule! And Yes to roasted tomatoes vs. frizzled hair, rustic can still be gourmet, and the hotter the summer the better the tomatoes:) My tomatoes are ripening now and I’m looking forward to roasting them to put away for the cooler months and making more tians like yours (and mine).

  24. Daily Spud

    Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Lori: doing this blog has certainly made *me* more conscious of different potato varieties and it’s great to be able to spread that awareness

    Bren: I love being able to grow things I can eat, and maybe I can get to use some more of those herbs in next months challenge :)

    Priscilla: Yay, tians do rule and here’s to many more of them! Definitely want to give your version a whirl btw – I have it on my must-make list…

  25. What a story indeed but with a lovely dish in the end. I love this combo and to me it looks elegant rather then rustic.

  26. Daily Spud

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Thanks Evelyne, you’re too kind :) Elegant or rustic, I have no issues with food like this gracing my plate at any time!

  27. I really love the rustic look of this dish!! Great job on the makeover. This looks so farm fresh and delicious!

  28. Beautiful tian with sweet roasted tomatoes—glad you were able to keep your homework away from the dog :-)

  29. Daily Spud

    Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Jessica: thank you, it certainly was delicious – in fact, I think it might be time to make it again :)

    Debi: hee, glad I was able to keep my homework away from the dog too :D

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