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.
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.
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
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- If I’d had a small bulb of fennel, I’d certainly have added pieces of that to the vegetable mix
- Serve 2-3, along with salads and what have you.