Today’s video demonstration for a tomato tarte Tatin is by Lu-Ann Humpel, head chef at The Plantation, an upmarket functions venue just outside Port Elizabeth. The Plantation was recently voted South Africa’s top wedding reception venue – and Lu-Ann’s inspired menus no doubt have something to do with it.
Tomato Tarte Tatin – The Recipe
A tarte Tatin is a classic French upside-down tart invented by the Tatin sisters. Usually made with fruit like apples, pears or bananas with caramel as a dessert, Lu-Ann makes hers with tomato and basil pesto, served with a mixed salad, which makes a lovely fresh starter. The tartets can be served hot or cold.
Makes 6 tartlets
Ingredients for the basil pesto
2 cups fresh basil; ½ cup olive oil; ½ cup grated parmesan; 1 to 2 cloves garlic (depending on how garlicky you would like it); salt and pepper to taste.
Ingredients for the tartlets
2 to 3 punnets (depends on the size of the tomatoes) rosa tomatoes (about 200g); a sprinkle of sugar; the basil pesto; 2 rolls of puff pastry; 6 foil pie dishes.
Ingredients for final assembly
Mixed salad leaves (Wild rocket, baby leaves, watercress etc); balsamic reduction (available from Woolworths or most speciality food stores).
First make the pesto. For that, add all the pesto ingredients together in a blender, blend and season to taste.
Next, cut the puff pastry into six round “lids” slightly bigger than the foil containers.
Place the rosa tomatoes into each container in an upright position till the container is full.
Sprinkle a little sugar over the tomatoes to balance their acidity, then add a generous amount of basil pesto.
Cover with the puff pastry “lid”, tuck it in (almost like you would with a blanket) and fold the excess pastry over.
Bake in an oven which has been preheated to 180C, for between eight and 10 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown, but do not overcook as you don’t want the tomatoes to go mushy – rather be guided by colour than by time.
When your tartlets are baked place your hand over the pastry and tilt it slightly to get all the excess liquid out before turning it onto the plate you will be serving it on.
Drizzle the tart with the balsamic reduction and top with the mix salad tossed with a touch of olive oil. Serve.
10 Questions – The Plantation’s Lu-Ann Humpel
Lu-Ann Humpel, 28, attended Warwicks Chef School in Hermanus and qualified when she was 18. After getting her diploma she moved back home to Port Elizabeth and joined the long-established Beach Hotel, where she worked for six months before being approached to cook at the Eastern Cape’s famous Shamwari Game Reserve.
The offer was too good to refuse so I moved there,” Lu-Ann recalls. “I started as a chef de partie and moved my way up the ladder to a senior sous chef by the time I left. I was there for three years before moving on to Botswana.
“I worked for Wilderness Safaris as a catering manager/head chef at one of their, at the time, three premier lodges. It was an amazing experience and very challenging due to the remoteness of the camp. Unfortunately I was only there for a year as I had to come back home for personal reasons.”
Learning she was back in her home province, Shamwari promptly offered Lu-Ann the position of head chef, which she took up for a year before setting off for Europe in order to gain some more international experience.
“Moving to London was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The food there is phenomenal and it was an amazing learning curve in my life. I joined a company called Restaurant Associates, which is a big corporate catering company.
“For the first year I was part of their relief team which meant I’d move around between the different companies as they needed a chef. It was hard as I never knew the people I was going to work with, or exactly what was expected of me; it was like starting a new job every week.
“But it was just as good as it was hard – you had to learn and adjust very quickly as there was no time for settling in at your own pace. Some of the chefs I had the privilege of working with were so unbelievably talented and that added hugely to my career.”
Places Lu-Ann worked at while being a part of the relief team were Meryll Lynch, Reuters, the London Stock Exchange (“I was based there for three months as their pastry chef”) and Barclays Capital, the latter whom she then joined permanently, also as a pastry chef, for her last year in London.
“Corporate catering has two facets, the first being staff restaurants; the second directors’ fine dining, I mainly worked on the directors’ side and when I joined Barclays permanently, that was where I was based. The food that we made there was incredible; I absolutely loved my work but unfortunately all good things do come to an end. My visa was up and I had to come home.”
After arriving back in the Bay, Lu-Ann decided she was going to be “fussy with my new job and only do what I really want to do”. An advert for a position at The Plantation on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth caught her attention and she immediately lined up an interview.
“I arrived and was blown away – it was like a dream come true for me, because what I saw was what I’d always wanted for myself.”
She aced the interview and has been at The Plantation ever since. “I’ve been here for almost two years and I’ve enjoyed applying what I’d learned from my past experiences. We really try and make our food as good for 200 guests as we would for two.
“My love for the business became even more personal and special soon after I started working here, because I met the love of my life right here. Paul Moffett, who is the operations manager as well as the brother/son of the owners of the business, is my fiancé and we will be getting married here in May next year.”
I come from a family that loves food. My mom is a very good cook and wanted to be a chef after she left school, but didn’t see it through. I started cooking at a very young age. It was something that just came naturally.
2. Who are the people you have learnt the most from in your career when it comes to cooking?
I worked with very talented chefs in London; they are phenomenal in what they did and really taught me a lot. But you learn from everyone, everywhere this is a job that is never ending with information, techniques and trends. Every person perceives it in their own way, which might just be better than your way.
3. Where do your ideas and inspiration for innovative dishes come from?
Magazines, the internet, chefs like Britain’s Gordon Ramsay and just my own passion.
4. Name some of the dishes that you and your team most enjoy preparing at The Plantation.
Our most popular dish at the moment is the Sardinia Trio which consists of tender beef fillet, herb-crumbed lamb chop and a tiger prawn cooked in basil butter, accompanied by crushed potatoes. I also like our trio of salmon starter – it looks beautiful and has three varieties of salmon on the plate. Another nice starter is the wild mushroom vol au vent with chive pesto, and then of course the tomato tarte Tatin!
5. What is the most valuable advice you can offer other would-be chefs?
First and foremost, make sure being a chef is really what you want to do. If you are not passionate about food and cooking, don’t even try it as a career. Working as a chef means long hours, endless time on your feet and no social life outside of your work. But if cooking is your passion and you are sure it is what you want to do, go for it – it is a very rewarding and satisfying job.
6. When cooking at home, for yourself or your own family, what sort of food do you typically prepare?
I love to cook good hearty stews, especially oxtail, and fresh fish bought at the harbour, grilled and served with steamed veg.
7. If you had to choose a final meal on earth, what would you most like to have?
Braaivleis, who doesn’t enjoy a good barbecue! It is so social and you can really go to town!
8. Which celebrity chefs do you enjoy most and why?
Britain’s Michel Roux Jnr and Gordon Ramsay are brilliant chefs – I had the privilege of eating in their restaurants in London and the food was mind blowing. Their precision in taste and presentation is just spot on.
Another chef I admire is Angela Hartnett; she has done wonders to put women chefs on the map and was awarded her first Michelin star in 2004. She has proved to the world that women can do it!
9. Which five ingredients will one always find in your kitchen store cupboard / fridge/ freezer?
Garlic, olive oil, butter (I cannot stand margarine or spread), fresh herbs and Maldon sea salt.
10. Which kitchen tool or gadget is your current favourite and why?
At the moment it is my Wusthof chef’s knife. It is such a good quality knife, really sharp, and my fiance gave it to me for Christmas, so it is really special too.