Monday, February 14, 2011

A Dog's Story and Bacon, Onion and Parmesan Cheese Tart

Happy Valentine's Day!

I watched "Hachiko: A Dog's Story" starring Richard Gere, on HBO last night. I cried incessantly - during and after the movie and again today when I read about Hachiko.

Based on a true story that happened in the 1920s/30s Japan, it tells the story of an invisible but fortified bond between a male Akita breed pet dog and his master. Hachi was found as a little puppy one day by a university professor and raised as the family's pet. As Hachi grew, a bond between pet and master developed and during the professor's life, Hachi would dutifully accompany his master to the train station and would religiously wait outside the station for his master's return from work every evening. Sadly one day, the master collapsed and passed away suddenly on campus and never did return to the station that evening where Hachi was waiting. Hachi was given away after his master's passing but he always found his way back to the station to wait for his master's return. For the next 9 years across 9 springs, 9 summers, 9 autumns and 9 winters until his death in 1935, Hachi never failed to return to the train station every evening hoping to see his master again.

Today, a bronze statue of Hachi can be found outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo. Hachi became a national symbol of loyalty amongst the Japanese and a reminder to hold family ties in that regard.

If you have not watched this movie and intend to watch it, do prepare a box of tissue or a towel if you must, as you'll be moved by such remarkable measure of faithfulness and love by a pet dog.

May this Valentine's Day bring a renewed and holistic meaning of love to all.

This bacon, onion and parmesan cheese tart below was made for a dinner gathering at my sister's house last weekend as our continuous celebration of Chinese New Year before it ends this week. I harvested a few bunches of my organically homegrown grape cherry tomatoes and I used them for decoration on the tart. My family said the tart was pretty and delicious. I guess that's because it was made with love for those whom I care deeply for.

Recipe for a 10 -11 " in diameter tart

To make the Shortcrust Pastry:

280g plain flour
150g butter
1/4 tsp salt
80g water

- Mix the butter, flour and salt until they combine and become sandy. Use a food processor, mixer or by hand. Add the water bit by bit and knead well to form a pastry dough.

- Roll out on a floured surface the size of at least 2 inches larger than your tart pan. This allowance is needed to cover the side of the pan. Lift the rolled dough and place it on the base of the pan. Adjust with fingers by pulling the dough to cover exposed side/top rim of the pan.

- Next, use a kitchen scissors and trim off access dough all along the rim of the pan.

- Got extra dough and don't want to waste it? No sweat. Roll the dough out to fit tiny tart molds.

- Use the back of a fork and make imprints all around the top rim dough. Also, use the fork and randomly poke the base and its side to allow better baking.

- Pre-bake the pastry at 145 C for about 15 minutes.

To make the Tart Filling:

2 large onions, diced/chopped
90 g grated Parmesan cheese
450 g Nestle all-purpose cream
3 eggs, beaten
4-5 slices of bacon, baked or pan-fried, cut into small pieces
Extra 5-6 slices of uncooked bacon (for decoration on top)

- Break and beat the eggs in a baking bowl. Add in the cream, mix well.

- Mix in the rest of the ingredients, beat well. Pour into the pre-baked pastry in pan.

- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 145 C or until the top has somewhat set but not yet browned. Take the pastry out from the oven, arrange the extra slices of bacon and bake at the same temperature for 15 minutes. Take the pan out again and this time, arrange the cherry tomatoes wherever you like by pushing each halfway into the filling. Sprinkle some crushed black peppercorns and dried oregano (or your other favorite herb). Place it back into the oven for further browning the way you like it.

Best regards

petite nyonya