Inspired by Franck Bordat
Makes 12 tartlets
The original recipe uses sea-bream as the crowning glory for these substantial nibbles, but I find them even more lipsmacking with smoked fish. Good-quality smoked mackerel, or diced smoked eel, straight from the pack, are tasty and practical options if the tartlets are to be served at room temperature. However, they are even more delicious served warm, as an amuse-bouche, topped with flakes of grilled kipper or, again, smoked eel fillets that have been revived in a hot pan. In that case, keep the tarts warm in the switched-off oven while you prepare the fish. Whatever you do, make sure you remove any stray bones. It's rude not to, and it will be a lot easier in the long run than mastering the Heimlich manoeuvre.
Firstly, get your oven up to 180°C/Gas 4. Roll 250g ready-made puff pastry to a thickness of about 3mm and use a cookie cutter to stamp out 12 circles of 7-8mm in diameter. You may prefer to divide the dough into 12 pieces and roll each into any shape that pleases your eye,. Arrange them on a non-stick baking sheet or a regular roasting tray brushed very lightly with oil.
For the topping you will need about 100g sun-dried tomatoes in oil (about ten or twelve sizeable pieces). Drain them of their oil, but reserve it. Put the tomatoes into a blender or processor and add a heaped tablespoon of tomato puree, along with a teaspoon or so of aged balsamic vinegar. Process to a smooth puree, adding a drop of the reserved tomato oil if the mixture seems a little stiff. Drop a heaped teaspoon of the mixture over each tartlet, pressing down lightly with the back of the spoon to spread it. At this point, and entirely without M. Bordat's endorsement, I brush the visible bits of the pastry lightly with some of the tomato oil, and finish with a tiny slick of it on the tomato topping to keep it soft and moist. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from the oven unless serving warm as suggested above.
When the tartlets have cooled slightly, top each one with a dainty morsel of smoked mackerel, removing any stray bones you can see. A 100g fillet, should suffice, or two smaller ones. Finish with a frond of feathery dill and arrange on a pretty plate for your guests' delectation. For vegetarians, top the tartlets with an elegant curl of vintage Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.
> Serve with a glass of Sauternes or Barsac.
Janet Wynne Evans