What you see here is our Christmas dinner entree (what we call entree here, is what Americans call appetiser), which was served a few days ago at Christmas dinner at my house, on a beatiful sunny day here in Melbourne. This light dish was a perfect way to begin a big meal on a warm day.
I am very proud of my pastry. Like Clothilde, at Chocolate & Zucchini, I used to think that frozen packaged pastry would do just fine for anything that called for pastry, but after reading her entry where she was in raptures about her "real" pastry crust, I decided I would try my own pastry for my Christmas tarts. I'm so pleased I did; the texture and taste is indescribable, and it really was so easy to do. I can't think of any reason, apart from extreme time constraints, that would stop me making my own pate brisee for tartlets again. The recipe can be found here on Clothilde's site, and I followed it exactly, apart from adding about 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme to the dough.
To fill the tarts I had bought a small tub of basil pesto and another small tub of black olive tapenade; both very strongly flavoured tastes, and perfect to be paired with some mild flavour underneath. I decided upon some soft, creamy mascarpone, mixed with salt and pepper for the tapenade. I felt the milder taste of the mascarpone would complement the strong, salty tapenade. For the pesto I decided upon some creamy goats curd. The pairing of the goats curd and the pesto was perfect - the combination of the tapenade and curd would have been too strong together, so these combinations were perfect.
I baked the tart cases a few days before Christmas and filled them just before we sat down to our enormous meal. We served them with some perfectly steamed slender asparagus, and I sprinked the basil tartlets with some cracked black peppr, and the tapenade tarts with some fresh thyme - just for presentation's sake!
And did I mention the pastry? Ohmygawd it was good!