Over the long weekend of the 1st of May I got the chance to take it a bit slower and enjoy 4 days of home bliss. Long lazy mornings, breakfast in bed, strolls in the park. Some good quality time with family and in the kitchen. In Estonia, Volbriöö is celebrated throughout the night of 30th of April and into the early hours of 1st of May, Spring Day. I grew up knowing it as the day of witches. It´s the celebration of the arrival of spring, when people light bonfires to keep away evil spirits and witches. Influenced by German culture, the night originally stood for the gathering and meeting of witches. In France it´s known as La Fête du Travail (Workers Day), slightly less mystical and definitely more French but still a public holiday.
After the first day of a promising sunny weekend, we woke up to grey sky and rain. The charm of Paris with its ever changing weather, sunny one moment, rainy the next. Although in Paris, the weather felt more like spring in Estonia, cold and rainy. So I wanted to cook something warm and comforting and on days like these that would have to be soup. As the weather wasn´t overly inviting to leave the apartment, I had to manage with what ingredients we had. So I turned to one of my favourites and most simple soups, Vichyssoise.
I first fell in love with Vichyssoise during my university studies years before moving to Paris. There is a charming little French bistro back in Tartu in South Estonia that serves a beautiful creamy Vichyssoise, back then I knew it simply as leek and potato soup. Creamy and smooth, it tastes like a bowl full of comfort. The perfect company on cold and rainy days, which in Estonia can be quite often. It´s a true French classic in all of its simplicity. The end result is much more then one would think considering the simple ingredients and needed effort which makes it one my favourites to turn to for something warm, comforting and delicious.
4 tblsp butter
6 leeks (white parts, cleaned and sliced)
3 potatoes (medium size, roughly chopped)
75 cl chicken broth
25 ml crème entière
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a pot, add the leeks and potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times. Stir in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the leeks and potatoes are very soft. Add the nutmeg and allow to cool for a few minutes. Slowly puree the soup in the blender. Whisk in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Return to heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. If you want to thin the soup out, add more broth, if needed. This soup gets better over time and can be served cold as well as hot.
The beauty of these kinds of tarts is that you can use a variaty of toppings and make it as savory or sweet as you like. So on a day when you don´t feel like going on a hunt for a specific ingredient, it´s perfectly fine to use what you have. We happened to have a couple of pears and some left over chèvre so that´s what I used. The rustic tart I´m writing about today can be served as an appetizer as well as a dessert. The saltiness of chèvre is balanced with the sweetness of pears and honey and the woodsy flavour of thyme combines everything beautifully together. To keep things simple I used store bought frozen puff pastry. One of the perks of living in Paris, the store bought frozen pastry doughs are really good quality and save a lot of time.
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
2 pears (cut into thin slices)
Honey (I used thyme honey)
1 tbsp fromage blanc
Preheat the oven to 200° C. Unfold the sheet of puff pastry and place it on a piece of parchment paper. Fold the edges of the pastry in and crimp the edges with a fork. Mix a tablespoon of honey with a tablespoon of fromage blanc and spread evenly across the sheet of pastry. Core and slice the pears thinly. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle on top of the pastry sheet. Arrange the pear slices on top to cover everything inside the edges. Bake for 20 minutes until the pastry sheet is golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes and drizzle some more honey over top. Sprinkle the tart with fresh thyme.