Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes, and herbs

This week, the Guardian UK had this bit of advice from a teacher to any and all parents. “Your kids are not your mates. Something I’m starting to hear with worrying frequency within the primary school setting is ‘my daughter’s my best friend.’ Often, this rings alarm bells. Your kids aren’t your mates. You’re their parent, and your responsibility is to provide them with guidance and boundaries, not to drag them into your own disputes. Your nine-year-old doesn’t need to know about your bitter feud with his friend’s mother, or which dad you’ve got the hots for at the school gate.” Well, I’m sorry, Guardian UK, you’re still my best newspaper friend forever, but I think this advice twists the issue and gets it wrong. First of all, the real problem is that a parent is telling anyone about their bitter feud with his friend’s mother or about which dad they have the hots for. Or that they have a bitter feud with their kid’s best friend’s mother in the first place. Some things are best kept to yourself! Secondly, this is such a strange definition of friendship! A friend is not necessarily someone you complain to or to enlist in your feuds. (Unless we’re all in some tawdry reality show and I’m blissfully unaware of it!) For me a friend is somebody who you enjoy spending time with, who you’re comfortable with, who you enjoy talking to, who you’ll take care of when they’re sick or down or need help with anything, and who you know will take care of you, too. And why am I bothering to get all huffy about a random article from the Guardian? I suppose it’s because just last week I was thinking happily about what good friends my boys have become for me. It’s one of my greatest pleasures in life, thinking about what good people and good friends they’re becoming. Walking with them, talking with them, cooking with them, reading with them, playing frisbee or basketball or some strange hybrid game that Malcolm invented that involves playing basketball with a frisbee while walking like a penguin. Even playing video games, which I do so badly that Malcolm laughs the whole time, is a good way to spend an afternoon. All of these are a joy to me, and more so every day. Of course I know that I’m the parent, I make the most basic rules, I tell them when it’s time to stop playing penguin ball and come and do some homework. I make them eat (at least some) of their dinner, I tell them when it’s time to go to bed. Or rather David and I do, because he’s a friend, too, and we’re all in this together. And of course I don’t expect them to take me to the doctor when I’m sick, or make me toast or decide what medicine I should take, like I do for them. But I do think it’s crushingly sweet that when I don’t feel well they bring me water, or try to be more quiet so that I can rest. And I think it’s important for them to feel needed, to feel as though they can help take care of somebody that they love. I think it’s important for them to know that we enjoy talking to them, that conversations with them are as entertaining and enlightening as with anyone else I know. From when he was very little, Isaac has said, “You’re fun to be with.” And I think it’s important for them to know that they’re fun to be with, too. The Guardian’s preachy teacher warned that being friends with your children might lead to social alienation for them later in life, but I believe the opposite. I believe they’re learning how to be a friend, and how good it feels to have a friend, how good it is to care. Or so I dearly hope!

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and fresh herbs

Here’s another of my world famous pizza-like tarts. It has a yeasted crust with olive oil in it, which, let’s face it, is a pizza crust. But it also has an egg and cheese custard in the middle, which makes it like a big flat quiche. This one began as a way to use up leftover grilled portobellos and some cooked tiny potatoes. I decided to use them as toppings here. I also used smoked gouda, to accentuate the smokiness of the grilled mushrooms. And we have such an exciting variety of herbs in our garden, and I used them all!! I love a big medley of herbs together, with all of the unexpected and delightful flavors. Some herbs I think of as better cooked…sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano. And others I like best fresh and raw–basil, tarragon, cilantro. So I mixed some in with the custard and baked them into the tart, and others I scattered on top at the end.

Here’s The White Stripes with We’re Going to be Friends.



(enough for two largish pies. I generally make one with red sauce and mozzarella for the boys, and a “fancy” one for us)

1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups flour
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 t salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine the yeast, sugar and half a cup warm water in a small bowl, and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes to get foamy.

In a large bowl combine the flour, pepper, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture and the olive oil. Stir well, and add enough warm water to form a soft dough. You want it to be as wet as it can that you can still comfortably knead it. Knead for about 5 minutes until soft and elastic. Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Roll the dough in this so that it’s evenly coated. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for two to five hours, till it’s doubled in size.


1 cup mozzarella, cut into small pieces
1 cup smoked gouda, cut into small pieces
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper
sage, rosemary, oregano and thyme, a teaspoon or two of each, chopped

grilled portobello mushrooms, sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
1 cup (+/-) tiny potatoes, boiled until soft but not mushy, or larger potatoes boiled until soft but not mushy and cut into 1-inch pieces
fresh herbs–basil, tarragon, cilantro, whatever you like!
small handful of lightly toasted pine nuts

In a food processor combine the eggs, milk, and cheese, and process until fairly smooth. Add the sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.


Preheat the oven to 450. Lightly coat two large baking sheets or pizza pans with olive oil. Spread the dough on sheets, spreading it with your palms and fingers till it’s quite thin, and building up a crust on the edges. I like thin crusts, so mine are nearly transparent at this stage, though they’ll rise a bit as they’re cooking. Prebake the crusts for about five minutes till they just lose their shine.

I always top one crust with tomato sauce and mozzarella. And the other… Pour the egg mixture into the crust (you’ll want to have built up the edges to at least 1/2 inch.) Top with the mushrooms and potatoes, distributed fairly evenly. Scatter the pine nuts around. Bake ten to fifteen minutes until puffed and golden. Before serving, scatter the fresh herbs around–the tarragon and basil and cilantro if you’re using.


7 thoughts on “Tart with grilled mushrooms, potatoes and herbs

  1. Well said, Claire. I have observed that children with healthy parental “friendships” grow up to be well adjusted. You are on the right course.

    There are boundaries to friendship. A friend is not a sounding board or a para-psychologist. I have also have observed that children who were (however unwittingly) used as mini therapists become emotionally battered and have a longer path towards self-knowlege and emotional stability.

    Hey, I’m no expert. I just watch.

    • I agree, Diane…you have to have boundaries, and know what not to burden your kids with. A few years back I was talking to Malcolm about how I was afraid of thunderstorms, and I could tell that he felt responsible for keeping me safe from one, and that wasn’t okay. So I try to keep my fears to myself, now!

      Speaking of thunderstorms, I think we’re going to get one some time this evening!!

      • Hooray for thunderstorms. Some of our pups are scared but then we pick them up and dance.

        Cheers to empowering through friendship our children and our friends.

  2. In my humble opinion, I think the Guardian was saying something along the lines that you cannot be a true friend to your children until they are grown up,and independent of you financially. YOU still call the shots. Friendship or mateship is a give and take with equality in the relationship. That is not the relationship between a child and a parent. You can’t be both- friend and parent.

    • Maybe I misunderstood the article. But I think the lines between friend and parent aren’t as sharply defined as this suggests. Should you not have a conversation with your children, or go out to dinner, or play a game? Of course you set the rules, ultimately, you call the shots, but I think it’s okay to have fun while you’re doing it. Otherwise when (If) your child is financially independent, you won’t know how to be with them. Of course I don’t know!

      • I think too many parents of small children want to be “friends” with their children and then have problems when there is confusion as to where to draw the line. There does need to be a distinct line drawn, but maybe the definition of “friend” or “mate” should be more defined. Children need structure, discipline and love, not necessary in that order and to achieve that, being a “friend,” IMHO blurs that line. You can have fun and enjoy every minute of your child’s growing up, but you are ultimately the adult in the picture.

      • I agree completely. Obviously, you don’t act like an infant when your child is an infant, or act like a toddler when they’re a toddler or a teenager when they’re a teenager. And you don’t expect them to act like an adult until they’re an adult. But one of my best friends in my life was a woman who was ninety when I was a teenager. Obviously I didn’t talk to her about things I talked to my teenage friends about, just as I don’t talk to my children about things only adults would or should understand. But that doesn’t change the fact that to me she was a true, warm, valued friend, as are my boys. And then, as a parent, you have the added responsibility of making rules and enforcing them, but I believe the respect for these rules that comes from friendship is a better and more valuable sort of respect than the respect that comes from fear.

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