Sunday, 26 July 2009

Food for Sharing

Our Big Lunch went off with a bang! What a fantastic day. Even before we'd all sat down to eat together at our long mish mash of tables up the middle of our street we felt like it had all been worthwhile. I caught up with neighbours who I wave to most days and met others who I had honestly never seen before despite them living only 10 doors away. Everyone brought the most amazing homemade and homegrown food - lettuces, tomatoes and courgettes from peoples' gardens, Sri Lankan pastries, huge bowls of colourful salads, sundried tomato bread, tarts and quiches, soups, cinnamon whirls (why oh why did I not get my hands on one of them...?!)... We had magic tricks, a clown on stilts, middle class dub from the back of a morris minor courtesy of Sly and Reggie, giant jenga and a lot of talking. And the rain stayed away!

I wanted to make food to share and also to test out my brownies ahead of my turn on the UKFBA stall at the Covent Garden Real Food Market on 30th July 2009! So I decided to make some vegetarian salads which would go with anything and Delia's Tomato & Goat's Cheese Tart which is not only the simplest tart you can make it is also super, super tasty.

Delia's Tomato & Goat's Cheese Tart


1 pack all butter puff pastry (you can make your own, but are there really enough hours in the day?!)
750g tomatoes (thinly sliced)
150g soft goat's cheese
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
fresh thyme
olive oil
salt & pepper

If you have the ready rolled pastry then just unroll it onto a lightly oiled baking tray. Otherwise, roll out your pastry into a rectangle measuring approximately 15"x12". With a sharp knife, mark a line about 1/2" from the edge of the pastry all the way around without cutting right through the pastry. This allows the pastry to rise at the edge.

Mix the goat's cheese, garlic, seasoning and a good handful of chopped thyme leaves. Spread onto the pastry base. Layer the tomato slices in lines on top of the cheese mixture, overlapping as you go. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and lay some thyme on top.

Bake in a medium oven (approx 170 - 180 C) for around 50 minutes to an hour, until the pastry is cooked and the tomatoes are starting to crisp at the edges.

Allow to cool slightly, then cut into slices and share with family, friends or neighbours!

For the salads I chose a Tabbouleh, which is light and fresh and goes really well with most things, including the Tomato Tart, and a potato salad. Potato salads tend to be the sort of thing most people like - a crowd pleaser. This particular recipe is one that I have made for years ever since reading Delia's recipe for Anya Potato Salad in her Vegetarian Collection. It's a good solid vegetarian cookbook - not my favourite, but one that covers so much day to day food and food for entertaining that it spends most of its time in my kitchen rather than on the bookshelf.



200g bulgar wheat
1 small red onion
large bunch of flat leaf parsley
750g - 1kg tomatoes
1 lemon
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 clove garlic (optional)


Cook the bulgar wheat and leave to cool. I do this by putting the bulgar in a small pan, covering with cold water, bringing it to the boil with the lid on and then I turn the heat off and let the steam do the rest.

Make the dressing in the bottom of a big serving bowl by whisking the juice of 1 lemon (this isn't set in stone - use less or more depending on your own taste), salt, pepper and crushed garlic clove together, then whisk in the olive oil. I always find those little 'wonder whisks' are perfect for making dressings as they help the ingredients emulsify which is what you want from a good dressing.

Finely chop the red onion and add it to the dressing.

Chop the tomatoes into small pieces - around 1cm square and pop them in a sieve over a bowl to drain off any excess juice. You can put them in juice and all but I find that it sometimes makes the salad too soggy. Slice the parsley as thinly as possible starting at the leafy top and going all the way down to the stalks. Slicing the parsley this way is something I learnt a few months ago and really makes a difference to the taste.

Mix all the ingredients together with the dressing and red onion and it's ready to serve. It keeps well for a day or so which means you can make it in advance if you need to.

Anya Potato Salad


2kg Anya potatoes
5 or 6 shallots (finely chopped)
1 dessertspoon Dijon mustard
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
4 or 5 dessertspoons olive oil
salt & pepper


Cook the potatoes in salted water, drain and put to one side.

Make the dressing by mixing the salt, pepper and mustard together in the bottom of a big serving bowl. Add the balsamic and white wine vinegars and mix with a wonder whisk (or a fork if you don't have one). Then add the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Put the shallots in the dressing.

Once the potatoes have cooled slightly (but are still warm) add them to the dressing and mix. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve either warm or cold. Again this can be made in advance, but the chives are best if you sprinkle them over at the last minute.


  1. Wow, looks fabulous!
    (The tomato tart AND the assembly of neighbours. Love that you had a group photo together)

  2. That looks brilliant! well done on organising it.

  3. It looks like you had a really good time with all your neighbours - what a fab idea the big lunch is!

    Love the tomato tart - do the tomato juices make the pastry all squishy or does it hold up quite well? Really love the tabbouleh too - been meaning to make this for ages now......

  4. What a lovely thing to do. Isn't it great how much effort everyone made. Your tart and salads look wonderful - really fresh.

  5. Thank you all for your lovely comments!

    We had a wonderful day and I had lots of help from my neighbours which helped share the load.

    C - With the tomato tart, I lay the slices of tomato on kitchen roll before layering them onto the tart to soak up any excess juices (although Delia reckons you can put them straight on). The tomatoes dry out and the pastry ends up nice and crisp so long as you leave it in the oven for long enough.

    If you're concerned about the pastry going soggy you could also transfer the tart to a cooling rack to cool instead of leaving it on the baking sheet which will allow the air to circulate.

  6. Well done for organising that mammoth of an event. It looks like loads of fun. Sri lankan pastries sound very interesting.

  7. The tomato and goats cheese tart looks really delicious and easy to do. When my tomato plant finally fruit this has got to be on the must make list.
    And well done for having such a great party with your neighbours - what a lovely way to share.

  8. Looks like you and the neighbours made a super effort for the Big Lunch. Would love to have cajoled a few of mine into getting together but just didn't grow the kahunas to organise it. Maybe next year.

    Lovely looking food esp. the tabbouleh.

  9. Just read this lovely blog and wanted to let you know I too do the big lunch each year but now I am also working in it getting more good northern Irish neighbours on board