I’m sitting at a softly polished red gum table, watching shadow-green waves whisper onto a white beach. We’re just north of the West Australian town of Mandurah, on holiday with my dad and his wife. With them living in Europe and us on the east coast of Australia we’re lucky that we get to see them twice a year, few are so blessed when they’re tens of thousands of miles apart.
Our little family landed a few days ago and I sat at this same table — unpacked bags scattered across the floor, still grimy from the plane journey — and marvelled at the horizon’s caress of sea meeting sky, the sun scattered kisses on the water and the waves rolling wearily in from a journey far greater than ours.
Our week since has been predominately 20 metres either side of this table. On one side, the sea with it’s warm waters and gentle waves, a perfect introduction for my toddler son. On the other, luxurious beds and bathrooms, a siren call to this tired mum. We swim in the early mornings and late afternoons, greeting and farewelling the sun from the sea each day. During the day, we read, write, play cards, talk endlessly, cook leisurely meals and lose ourselves in something as close to the perfect form of a beach as I can imagine. I think even Plato would have been impressed with this heavenly offering.
As I write this, it seems nature’s in the mood to show off — a school of dolphins cavort in the shallow waters ahead of me, and two pelicans dance in the sky above. It’s the sort of scene I would constantly google to dream about when I was 23 years old and working 14 hours a day in the middle of a finance market trading floor in a windowless, poorly converted car park in central London.
My father’s house here has a beautiful kitchen and I’ve been immersing myself in ferociously expensive Miele appliances. They produce meals that hum with celestial flavours and textures. If I could dig his exceptional oven out of the wall and somehow convince my airline to accept it as hand luggage, I may well risk my relationship with him to do so…
I made this pie while watching my father and son jumping waves together last night, and served it with a simple salad just as the setting sun disappeared from view. All our food this week has been of the relaxed, undemanding, stretch-or-starve variety. I’d read about roasting garlic cloves inside pumpkin a while ago and wanted to try the technique in a recipe that would really showcase the flavours. Thick slices of red onion with lots of thyme and sharp, salty cheese complete this simple and utterly delicious filling.
Pastry ingredients – for a gluten free pastry, the recipe I adore and swear by can be found by clicking here
- 250g strong plain flour
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 250g butter, at room temperature, but not soft
- about 150ml cold water
- ½ pumpkin – weight about 1kg
- 2 ½ tbl sp olive oil
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped
- 2 tbl sp fresh thyme leaves, plus additional sprigs to garnish
- 115g cheddar cheese, grated
- 100g pecorino cheese, grated
- 1 tbl sp milk
- salt and pepper
Making the pastry
Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Roughly break the butter in small chunks, add them to the bowl and rub them in loosely. You need to see bits of butter
Make a well in the bowl and pour in about two-thirds of the cold water, mixing until you have a firm rough dough adding extra water if needed. Cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 mins in the fridge
Turn out onto a lightly floured board, knead gently and form into a smooth rectangle. Roll the dough in one direction only, until 3 times the width, about 20 x 50cm. Keep edges straight and even. Don’t overwork the butter streaks; you should have a marbled effect
Fold the top third down to the centre, then the bottom third up and over that. Give the dough a quarter turn (to the left or right) and roll out again to three times the length. Fold as before, cover with cling film and chill for at least 20 mins before rolling to use
This recipe makes about 750g and you only need 375g for this recipe, so keep the rest in the freezer for recipes like The Imperfect Kitchen’s blueberry and lemon pastries!
Making the tart
Pre heat the oven to 200°C and, using 1 tsp of the oil, grease a pie dish measuring 28cm
Scoop out the seeds from the pumpkin and rub all over with ½ tbl sp of the oil
Break the bulb of garlic into cloves (leave the skin on the cloves) and mix in a bowl with ½ tbl sp of the oil
Place the cloves in the pumpkin cavity, then place the pumpkin cut side down on a baking tray, so that the garlic is enclosed under the pumpkin. (Easy way to do this? Place the baking tray, upside down onto the garlic-filled pumpkin and turn the whole thing over)
Deeply pierce the pumpkin 6 or 7 times with a sharp knife and bake in the oven for 1 hour, until the pumpkin is soft
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, you want the onion to be well coloured but still with a bit of bite
When the pumpkin is ready, spoon the flesh into a bowl and discard the skin. Squeeze the garlic from their skins into the bowl and mash thoroughly with a fork
Completely mix the onion, thyme leaves and cheeses with the pumpkin mix and season well with salt and pepper
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board
Cut out a circle about 33cm in diameter and place in the pie dish, cutting off any overhanging pastry
Prick the base all over with a fork and bake for 15 minutes
Remove the pastry from the oven, spoon the pumpkin mixture into the pastry and spread to fill evenly, add the thyme sprigs as garnish and a final grind of salt and pepper to the top
Brush the edges of the pastry with milk and return the pie to the oven for 5 to 7 minutes to let the pumpkin warm through