Category Archives: Pastry

Autumn Courgette Tart

Cost: well, hard to say – this recipe was created to make use of the courgettes which are sprouting in the garden on an almost-daily basis, and other than that uses a scoop of flour, some butter/lard, an egg and a handful of cheese, so it would cost a pound or two at most, I think.

Another variation of the vegetable tart I’ve been making in one form or another throughout the year – a springtime version with the season’s new leeks and peas, a summer tart with perfect tomatoes (and another with imperfect tomatoes given a bit of help with other ingredients), and in its latest incarnation, a fresh-but-satisfying filling of courgettes sliced paper thin with flashes of gold from their delicate flowers.

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Summer Tomato Tart

Cost: about 80p, or £1.60 with mozzarella to serve. Serves 2 as a main course or more as a side dish.

A summery version of the Savoury Spring Tart – or really, for this almost-summer that we find ourselves in now, when we’re still willing the good weather to fully take hold, but meanwhile ingredients need a bit of helping along. We made two versions of this tomato tart, one with gorgeous, pungent vine cherry tomatoes (from Lidl!) and one with those watery supermarket tomatoes that cost almost nothing but taste of exactly nothing. For tomatoes like these, which don’t really stand up to eating on their own, the flavour is encouraged along with a slick of tomato puree and a tangle of caramelised onions, as well as a grinding of flaky Maldon salt before the heat and extra time in the oven reminds them of what tomatoes are supposed to taste like and burnishes the pastry to a deeper gold. The onions in this version also protect the pastry from sogginess, but with really good cherry tomatoes they aren’t really needed to help the flavours sing.

Cherry Tomato Tart

Pale Tomato Tart (good cherry tomatoes)

Golden Tomato Tart (with    watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)

Golden Tomato Tart (with watery tomatoes that need a bit of help)

Both of these are very enjoyable – the paler tart with cherry tomatoes is more delicate and the tomatoes aren’t cooked as much as they are warmed, the oven heat just ripening them a little more, and the tart really just shows them off. The darker tart is more complex, with punchier flavours – more umami, salt and sugar, a symphony rather than a solo.

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Savoury Spring Tart

Cost: about £1.50 – £2, but really it’s a tart to make out of the bits and pieces left in the fridge by the weekend. Serves 4 as a main course or 6-12 as a side dish.

This tart was an unexpected delight – eaten in warm crumbly wedges outside for lunch on the lawn, and then leftovers enjoyed on the sofa the following evening. The pastry is from Nigella Lawson’s luscious How to be a Domestic Goddess, and it is my favourite for any savoury tart. She says that it is too friable for a large tart and makes little individual ones, but I’ve had reliably good experiences with making a 23cm fluted tart – it is golden, and as short and crumbly as a shortbread biscuit, very slightly flaky and with an almost-sweet edge from the semolina. Whilst it has elements in common with a quiche, the ratios of the filling are reversed to give a healthier, more flavourful tart – rather than ingredients fossilised in waxy dairy, here the pastry is generously heaped with a ribbony tangle of soft, sweet leeks, with nuggets of bacon and little juicy peas nestled within. The filling – eggs, cheese and milk (no cream) is lighter than for a quiche, and just keeps everything moist and in shape.

Leek and Bacon Tart

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Winter Fruit Tart

Cost: £3-4, serves 8

We had a lovely dinner at our vicar’s house last night, and brought dessert, tied precariously with parachute cords to the back of my bike. We’ve had some success with this in the past – a traybake seems to rattle along quite comfortably, but the other day the pavlova we set out with had turned into Eton Mess when we arrived at our host’s house. Luckily, despite my terrible cycling, the dessert arrived in one piece.

Anyway, one of my favourite desserts is a fruit tart – a thin shell of pastry, ideally with no soggy bottom, filled generously with squidgy pastry cream and topped with whatever fruit is in season. Which in February requires a bit of imagination, but luckily the bowl shops along Seven Sisters Road (where a large bowl of fruit or veg costs a pound, but the selection depends on their supply that day) had blood oranges and some forced rhubarb that glowed pink like sticks of rock.

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Chicken Pie

The sequel to the roast chicken meal, this is my first choice for comfort food. It can be made ahead, and even frozen, using leftovers – we always eat it at least once in the Lake District after a long day hiking because it’s great to be able to just throw in the oven, and in the time it takes to get out of all the rain soaked layers/ muddy boots and do a round of hot drinks, the pie is ready; puffed up and piping hot, just the thing to warm you up from the inside. Also, the Penrith chickens for sale at the local butcher are fantastic, princes amongst birds.
For similar reasons I’ve found it’s a useful meal to make to give to people, either for freezing or immediate eating. It also works well for families and children – I made it into hand pies once, using a slightly less liquid filling and shop bought pastry, and then used pastry trimmings to form their names on the pies. Shameless pandering.

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Lobster Pot Pie

I wish I was organised enough to bring my own lunch to work; it would save an absolute fortune. As it is though, I really value taking time away from the desk to buy something, and even though the subsidised work canteen is generally good (the wonton noodles are excellent and only cost 10x as much as in a Singapore hawker centre) the idea of my post-tax salary going back to my employers sends me outside every time, even in the cold.
Possibly my favourite winter lunch is the chicken pot pie from EAT. It set off a series of attempts to recreate it at home. Chicken Pot Pie is a meal for the Lake District, when we’ve been out walking all day and buy chickens from Penrith, but for special occasions at home there is Lobster Pot Pie.
Having shelled the lobster in advance, this was a weeknight dinner the day after Valentine’s day. Or as the Husband calls it: Tuesday. We don’t go out, exchange gifts or even good wishes but we did have lobster for dinner and chocolate fondants for dessert. Just because.

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