If you only think of Italian cuisine in terms of meat-laden pizza and pasta, Tommaso Bartoli is here to broaden your horizons. As the head chef at Bio at DOC, DOC Group’s newly opened eatery in Carlton, Bartoli is proving that a menu of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free Italian food isn’t just possible – it’s delicious too.
From charcoal spaghetti and hemp gnocchi to chickpea medallions and slow-cooked cauliflower, Bartoli is reinventing what Italian food can be. There’s still a classic feel to the dishes – see the requisite eggplant parma and selection of distinctive Italian cheeses – but at least half of the menu is vegan (and the other half is vegetarian).
“We got good feedback as soon as we opened,” says Bartoli. “No one was expecting this. Italian [usually] means pizza and pasta and sausages.”
Bartoli’s menu changes seasonally, with smaller tweaks every couple of weeks based on the offerings of the restaurant’s trusted organic suppliers. But there’s one specific dish that you can recreate at home – and pair with a delicious (and easy) cocktail to boot.
Below is Bartoli’s recipe for a couscous tart topped with whipped goat’s cheese, roasted Dutch baby carrots and a thick vegetable gravy. It’s not actually a proper tart, but it’s styled to resemble one. And while the restaurant version will use chickpea couscous to keep it gluten-free, the below version uses the easier-to-find regular couscous.
It's a light side dish that yields two serves, so Bartoli recommends pairing it with an equally light cocktail such the Belsazar Rosé & Tonic, a drink recommended by Bulletin Place co-owner Tim Philips to accommodate the growing popularity of rosé vermouth. Perfect for replicating at home, it’s an easy blend of Belsazar Rosé and tonic water with a wedge of grapefruit to garnish – and clocks in at just half a standard drink.
“The cocktail has a very, very light flavour,” says Bartoli, “[like] this dish, which is tasty but not too much. So neither are overwhelming. It’s a bit sweet, so I put carrots on the plate and some juniper berries and cloves to give it more flavour – but not too much. And the goat cheese has this point of acid to contrast with the sweetness.”
The goat’s cheese also holds the couscous in place so it can stand in for a proper tart. And the couscous is made with the gravy (a bit like a thicker stock), suffusing it with flavour. Add slices of roasted baby Dutch carrots in a floral pattern on top, and a dollop of extra gravy. It’s a delicious way to show off the flavour of vegetables in a petite format.
Belsazar Rosé & Tonic
Serves 1. Approx. 0.4 standard drinks
30ml Belsazar Rosé
90ml Fevertree tonic water
Wedge of grapefruit to garnish
Assemble all ingredients with plenty of ice in a rocks glass (like those typically used for whiskey, similar to a low-ball).
Cous cous tart in vegetable gravy with roasted baby Dutch carrots and whipped goat cheese
*note: the gravy will need to simmer for around 2.5 hours, so allow cooking time.
1 brown onion
1 red onion
3 celery sticks
5g juniper berries
200ml red port
200g red kidney beans
Preheat the oven at 200°C. Cut the veggies into big pieces and leave the skin on. Roast for 30–40 minutes until brown. Once they’re ready, put everything in a pot with the spices. Start cooking them with the beans at high fire and add the red port until it reduces. Then add the water to fill 3/4 of the pot and cook at low fire for a couple of hours, until it’s reduced by half. Drain everything and keep the liquid and let it reduce for another 30 minutes.
Whipped goat cheese
100g soft goat cheese
100g full cream milk
Mix all together until smooth.
80g couscous (or chickpea couscous)
2 baby Dutch carrots, sliced
Oregano leaves for garnish
Preheat the oven at 200°C while seasoning the carrots with oil, fresh oregano, salt and pepper. Cook them for 20 minutes or until well coloured. Once your veg stock is ready and still hot, cook the couscous with it in a 50/50 proportion in a lidded container for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once ready, plate with a circle of sliced carrots on top of goat cheese, with oregano leaves for garnish and some extra gravy on top for tasting.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Belsazar.