Category Archives: Tarts

La crostata rustica

La crostata (it means ‘crusted’) is oft made in my family in Italy.

It’s usually a thing of some precision, the pastry laid out, put in a tart or pie tin, filled with fruit or, sometimes, jam, and then criss crossed with thin, fluted strips of pastry.

This crostata is different in that it makes a virtue of its pulled together-ness and the pastry is, anyway, too fragile to handle much (this is because of the lard, which also gives it its deliciousness..). It has become my new favourite tart.

You can use any suitable soft fruit for this – peaches, berries, plums. I used plums as that’s what the original recipe called for. It’s really easy but, as I’ve said, beware because the pastry is very tricky to handle but that’s okay cos it’s all about a rustic look!

This is adapted from a Donna Hay recipe.

The pastry

225g plain flour

55g caster sugar

the rind from half a lemon

60g butter, fridge cold and chopped

40g lard, fridge cold and chopped

2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar

60ml ice cold water – but you may not use all of it

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

The filling

500g of suitable tart fruit, sliced if necessary.

75g caster sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

10g cold, chopped butter

1 beaten egg

some demerara sugar

(some juniper berries if you like and you remember)

40g ground almond

Method

Put the flour, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl and mix together lightly – you can do this by hand or in a food processor (I used the latter, work lightly). Add the butter and lard and mix to resemble the famous ‘fine breadcrumbs’. Now add the vinegar and vanilla and just enough water to bring it all together. If using a food processor, pulse and stop before the pastry has come together but looks clumpy. Bundle together and put in the fridge to rest for fifteen minutes or more (until you are ready to work with it, you can do it overnight).

When ready, roll out onto baking parchment, either into a round shape or, as I do, an oblong. I must confess to half rolling, half pressing the pastry to shape with ice-cold fingers (cold hands, cold heart). You want to get it to about 3-4mm thickness. When you’ve rolled it out so it’s at it’s final dimensions, put it back in the fridge for ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C.

In the meantime mix together the (sliced) fruit, sugar and vanilla.

(Note: you can make the fruit bit in advance and keep it in the fridge, but bear in mind the sugar will leach water from the fruit and you don’t want to put this (the juice) onto the pastry, so if you do make it in advance, just pour off any excess juice and serve separately over the tart, there isn’t much.)

Slide the baking parchment onto a baking tray, so the pastry base sits on the tray it will cook on.

Spread the ground almonds on the base – leaving a rim of about an inch. Now plop the fruit on top, spread it out as far as you’ve put the ground almonds and fold the sides over. I find the pastry really hard to handle at this stage: do your best. Don’t worry if it looks very home made, it all adds to the charm. Brush the pastry edge with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.

Place in the oven for 15 mins, then reduce temperature down to 175C for 30-40 mins until the pastry is nice and golden and the fruit is bubbling. (Check after 30, I have two ovens and both vary hugely, one was perfect after 40 mins one was more than done after 30.) Let cool for ten minutes. I served it with this ice cream and let me tell you, it was a magical moment.

 

 

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Raw chocolate and orange tart (gluten free, dairy free)

For a while I’ve been meaning to make a raw chocolate tart. I keep seeing recipes for them and I love a birruva treat every day after my lunch. But. I don’t always want that sugar high/low I get after eating pastry (much as I adore pastry). Anyway. I saw this in Delicious magazine and I’ve adapted it every so slightly. Next time, I think I’d make some changes to the base, too – I would use toasted (sssh, I know that won’t make it raw but it will make it delish) nuts instead of the dessicated coconut.

If you don’t like coconut you won’t like this, but otherwise, this is a really intense chocolate treat. It still feels ‘spoily’ and not too worthy. It lasts a good long while so you can have a slither every day and it tastes even better after a few days. I warn you, the chocolate hit is powerful.

For the base:

110g coconut oil

140g ground almonds

175g dessicated coconut

2 tablespoons of honey

1 tablespoon of raw cocoa (I buy it in 1K bags and it works out at quite good value compared to the Green and Blacks one I used to buy)

For the filling:

75g dates

Zest and juice of one orange

50g coconut oil

175g honey (I used mostly honey and some maple as I ran out)

140g raw cocoa powder

Method

Soak the dates in some boiling water for about half an hour then drain them, and discard the water.

Put the ingredients for the base (not the dates, they aren’t part of it yet) in a food processor until it starts to clump together, then tip into a 23cm loose based tart tin. Don’t wash the food processor up yet!

You don’t need to grease the tin or anything (although be warned, the first slice is hard to cut). Flatten it down and up the sides with your fingers, cover with cling film and put in the fridge.

So much easier than pastry isn’t it?

Now put the drained dates, plus all the other ingredients for the filling, into the food processor and whizz up. I found it made quite a sticky mess that was hard to liberate, fully, from the bowl and blade but do your best. Spoon the filling into the case and put it in the fridge. But, once it’s been in the fridge, I find it tastes nice for being out of the fridge for ten minutes.

You only need a tiny slice.

 

Baked blackberry and lemon curd cheesecake

I was going to write about iced coffee today, but the weather is so grey and miserable this appealed more.

This came from those recipe cards Waitrose has hanging up, usually near the exit. I don’t know who writes the recipes for Waitrose, but they are an unsung hero – some of my very best bakes have come from unauthored recipes from Waitrose. This is a lovely, lovely recipe that makes a great cake: not too fancy, but fancy enough to make it no ordinary cheesecake. It’s also pretty easy to make because a lot of it is assembly, not technique. Try it this weekend after Sunday lunch and let me know how you get on with it.

The recipe is here, but I adapt it slightly and this is how I cook it:

200g pack essential Waitrose All Butter Biscuits, crushed (OBVIOUSLY you can use different ones but I have found these work well)
60g butter, melted
300g soft cheese
300ml Isigny Creme Fraiche
150g caster sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract
2 eggs
225g -ish of blackberries
Lemon curd (I really, really recommend Duchy Originals) – as much as you need to coat the biscuit base with a thin layer, I’d say about six tablespoons.
Icing sugar for dusting (I always forget to do this).

First you crush the biscuits anyway you see fit. I do them with a rolling pin, rolled over a sealed plastic bag. Melt the butter, introduce the two and spread this across a parchment base-lined 23cm spring form tin. Chill in the fridge for an hour or two, less is fine.

To make the filling, heat up the oven to 190C. Mix together the soft cheese, creme fraiche, caster sugar and vanilla extract – either by hand or in a food mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the eggs and beat well until everything is incorporated. Set aside for a momentino.

Get out the tin with the biscuit base, dollop lemon curd across the base, you want it pretty much covered by a thin layer. Now put the blackberries over the top. I used frozen ones that had been picked from our garden last year, and it was nice to see them again.

Now drop the cheese mixture over the top, level out, and cook for  40–45 minutes. It’ll be brown around the edges and set in the middle. (The photo above makes it look like it’s REALLY brown, that’s cos of the effects of the film I use, it’s not that brown.) Take it out, leave it to cool and then leave it in the fridge for a few hours. Overnight if possible because this is even better the next day.Because of this it makes a great dessert to serve when you have people coming round as it’s one less thing to worry about on the day. It will easily keep for a few days in the fridge.

Roasted pepper, mint and halloumi tart

Don’t you think it’s kinda rich, when someone asks you what they can cook for lunch guests when you’re not one of the lunch guests?

This is how this post came about. My friend Marcus, who I’m going to now name and shame, is having people for lunch and the Barbieri family are not amongst the invited.

Shocking.

But I forgive him because whenever I need a chainsaw, he’s round with his special trousers on, and the chainsaw. He’s also a very good garden photographer who works for all those flash magazines that show garden porn and even though I have almost zero gardening recce skills (‘grass’ and ‘roses’ are the only two things I can name), I do appreciate a beautiful picture of pretty garden things.

So, he asked, what can I cook that’s easy? The two things that came to mind were either Gnocchi and Chorizo, which is delicious and really easy. Or my mint and halloumi tart which I’ve been making for ten years now, ever since I saw the recipe in Sainsbury’s magazine. However, for whatever reason, I’ve never posted about it. Probably because, rather shamefully, I’m a bit possessive about the recipe which is a meanness I have to fight against.

The mint and halloumi tart looks tricksy but it isn’t really. You can do it in stages, and I suggest you do. It absolutely isn’t something to start cooking an hour before your guests come. If that’s the sort of time you have then the gnocchi dish can be knocked up in ten minutes.

You can – and I do – make the pastry for this tart the day before. You can indeed cook the tart (it needs to be baked blind) the day before. You can also make the mixture the day before, keep it in a covered bowl, and an hour before your guests come, you bring the two together, pouring the mixture into the tart case and putting it in the oven. This tart tastes best when it’s about half an hour out of the oven: warm not hot. Anyway here we go.

the pastry

200g plain flour

25g polenta (I use the easy cook one that comes in packets but any kind will do, it’s to give the pastry a good crunch and I urge you not to leave it out)

125g butter, diced

1 egg

1 teaspoon of olive oil, just regular not virgin

For the filling

3 red peppers, now by all means buy some red peppers, roast them skin them and slice them up yourself but otherwise just by a jar of roasted peppers and cut them up if they’re not already cut up.

1 x 15g fresh mint, chopped up into nice small bits

1 x 250g halloumi, drain any excess liquid off, coarsely grate (the grating is my least preferred job)

3 eggs

284ml of single cream or half cream half milk which is what I use

freshly ground black pepper

to make the pastry

Put the flour, polenta and butter in a food processor and pulse briefly. (Even as I’m writing this I can imagine people thinking ‘fuck this this is too much trouble, I can buy a quiche or something. Well yes, yes you can. But it’s not the same. Anything worthwhile does take a bit of effort so buck up and get on with it.)

If you haven’t got a food processor you can do this bit with your hands, rubbing the butter into the polenta and flour whilst gazing out of the window or something.  Add the egg and the oil and it should all come together into a ball with a bit of work. If you do this in a processor, as I do, it comes together in minutes. If you do this in a processor you should really take pastry – not just this but any pastry – out and finish it off with your hands, take it out when it’s almost a ball, starting to clump, so you don’t overwork it. Less is more with pastry, it’s not a Versace dress we’re working on.

Shape the pastry into a disc and put in clingfilm or in a bowl or whatever and put in the fridge to let it rest for about 30 mins. You could easily leave it for a day or two if need be.

When you’re ready to cook the base, take the pastry out of the fridge. You need a tart tin. I know what you’re thinking, what size? I don’t know and I’m too fucking lazy to go downstairs and measure mine.

Okay. It’s about 23cm, it’s one of those fluted numbers. I have two, a ceramic one and a tin one with a removable base and which I use depends on nothing more than whim.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Now, you’re meant to roll out the pastry. I never do for bases of things. I take bits of pastry at a time and flatten them over the base and sides of the tin. This is very unorthodox but as I’ve mentioned before, I have cold hands and a cold heart so in my kitchen, this means the pastry gets worked less than if I rolled it out. Plus, you know, strictly speaking you should never put an Italian woman in charge  of a rolling pin.

When the base and sides are covered, line the base with foil and put baking beans in.

This isn’t the same as baked beans. Baking beans weigh down the pastry so it doesn’t rise. I’ve had baking beans since I was seven. I think mine are made of something highly toxic like lead but these days they are ceramic.

Cook the pastry case in the oven for fifteen minutes. Then take it out, take out the foil with the beans, and put the now naked case back in the oven for another 5 or so minutes.

Remove and cool the case. At this stage you can store it in the fridge, or a cool place like a larder if you’re posh, for a day or two.

Now to the the filling which, if you are making this tart all in one go you could have made whilst the tart case was cooking. If not just make it in advance and store it covered up in the fridge.

You basically whisk up the eggs, grate the halloumi, mix with the eggs, ground black pepper (you don’t need salt as the halloumi is salty enough), chopped mint, cream and lastly mix in the peppers.

It’s at this stage, when everything is mixed together, that you can store the mixture in the fridge, covered up, for a day. But when ready to cook, poor it onto the tart base, level out, stick in oven for 30-35 minutes until it’s nicely brown on top. Take it out and leave it for about 30 minutes. You can eat it cold too of course. But, it’s particularly delicious eaten warm with a crisp, slightly bitter salad. Or steamed asparagus, a new potato salad, etc.

You can also take it on picnics or sliced up in a lunch box.

Sorry for no photo of an actual one I’ve made (it’s a photo of a photo, shocking), but I’ll take one next time I make this baby.

Jam tarts for a Monday

My jam tarts. The orange ones are apricot jam, the darker yellow ones are the Duchy Originals lemon curd, the bright yellow the Waitrose lemon curd.

As I look at the list of things I’ve written about on here recently, I see it’s a lot of food stuff.

And here’s more.

Jam tarts. I don’t often eat them, because the shop bought ones are like cheap jam spread on layers of newspaper. But they seem so easy to make. Except the last time I made them, they were a disaster. It’s too long ago now to remember what happened.

On Thursday I was looking through my recipe books, deliberating what to cook for Sunday lunch (I menu plan in a fierce way, this keeps spending under control and I can also make sure we have a good balance of food during the week in terms of ‘have we eaten enough fish?’ etc. You can hate me if you want, but I AM that organised).

I skimmed through Jamie Oliver’s Best of British and found a recipe for jam tarts that didn’t just say “shop bought pastry, jam”, so I tried them.

They were delicious, a bit superior in fact. The pastry is chewy. Jamie says to use all different coloured jams, and I’m sure that’s a great idea if you like a rainbow effect on the serving plate (he does indeed call them “Rainbow Jam Tarts“, p. 178 of Jamie’s Best of British). But I found that, in reality, some are more popular than others.

And let’s face it, no-one likes a green jam tart.

My children really liked the apricot jam ones. Me and their father shoved down the lemon curd ones as if we were trying to hide evidence.

A word about lemon curd. I used the Duchy Originals one and the Waitrose own make. No comparison. The former was vastly superior, a darker colour (more natural looking), a far nicer taste: rounded and subtle, the Waitrose one was too sharp, ringing that “I’ve got lemons in me” bell a little too shrilly. The curds also acted differently in cooking. The Waitrose one exploded out of the tarts, the Duchy one was all well behaved and stayed put.

This made 24 tarts for me:

Pastry

250g plain flour
250g icing sugar (try not to think about how much sugar that is)
125g unsalted butter
pinch of sea salt
1 large egg
The rind of a lemon or an orange, I used orange
A splash of milk

For the filling you will need a heaped tablespoon of your favourite jams or curds.

You need a jam tart tin, which is to say one of those shallow 12-hole tins. Not a deep one like you’d use for muffins or cupcakes. The sort you’d probably make mince pies in.

I greased mine very lightly.

Now, put the flour, sugar, salt and butter into a food processor and pulse until like breadcrumbs. Although in truth because there’s so little butter to dry ingredients, this will look more like what it is: lots of flour and sugar, rather than breadcrumbs. Crack in the egg, grate in the zest and pulse again, adding just enough milk to bring it all together. You’ll have a soft dough, flecked with zest.

Rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or until you’re ready to use it later.

Now preheat the oven to 180. Dust a surface with some flour, roll out the pastry to about 0.5cm thick (don’t make it too thin or they will collapse when cooked as they’ll be too thin to take the weight of the filling) and cut with a fluted cutter to a size bigger than the holes in the bun-tray. Place each circle in, gently push down.

Then add tablespoons of the jam/curd in: about one heaped tablespoon per tart. Don’t overfill but don’t be mean with it either. About half a cm below the top of the pastry shell should do it. Now, gently  spread the jam/curd around so it lies flat and fills the shell. Don’t just leave it in a blob as fell off the spoon as it won’t spread out whilst cooking, the pastry rises to fill the gaps and you’ll end up with something less than perfect looking.

This won’t do.

Put into the oven (you may need to cook in batches if you only have one tray, but that’s okay cos the pastry can sit in the fridge for a day or two). Cook for 12-15 minutes. You want the tarts golden round the edges.

Leave in their tray for a few minutes before prising out. Mine came out quite easily although the ones with the lemon curd were the hardest to take out. The ones with the Waitrose lemon curd in were the hardest of all and broke up quite easily (I am never again buying this lemon curd).

If it interests you, these are also really easy for children to make. I didn’t let mine near it as it was my self-soothing project.