Tag Archives: plums

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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My Plum Crumble

The name of this recipe is a total lie. It’s not MY plum crumble. But I don’t remember where the recipe came from, and I make it so much that it is, in my head at least, mine. I know I got it in a rush one day because my esteemed friend Wendy was coming round for dinner, to show me her newly bought Aston Martin (as you do). Wendy is a vegetarian and I wanted to prepare dinner with what I had in the house. So I ended up making two things I’d never made before, and that were both magnificent successes. Mercifully, I wrote down the recipe for the plum crumble and have been making it ever since. The other recipe, for butternut squash risotto – which was STUPENDOUS – is lost forever.

Here is the plum crumble. I often use half wholemeal plain flour and half white plain, without noticing any difference other than a more nutty flavour. But as ever with recipes, I’d start off with doing it as it says before experimenting.

700-800g plums, stoned and quartered
175g dark brown soft sugar
a squeeze of lemon
175g plain flour (I now use 75g wholemeal, 100g white)
150g butter, cold and cut into pieces
50g porridge oats (as in the flakes, not pinmeal)

Quarter the plums and put into a dish about…hmmm. I use a Le Creuset dish that holds 1.6l. This pudding serves about 6-8 so you know, just kinda guess. The plums should fit snugly across the bottom.

Squeeze the lemon over the top, add two tablespoons of the sugar and 125ml of water.  Mix around so all the plums are coated.

Now in a food processor, mix up the flour and rest of the sugar. Especially if you’re using that soft brown sugar that clumps together. Now add the butter and pulse for a few seconds, and finally the oats. Pulse briefly until starting to clump together.

Put over the plums evenly. Put the dish on a baking dish (in case the plums ooze their juice all over the oven floor) and cook at 190C for about 40 minutes until all nice and brown.

This is obviously delicious, but I feel the need to point it out anyway, with custard, cream or a little vanilla ice cream. If home made, so much the better. I do kid myself that it’s good for you, as it’s fruit and the topping has oats (I conveniently forget the sugar). You can reheat it in the microwave, it doesn’t harm the topping too much. I just find this crumble really warming and satisfying and generally, spirt lifting. But I may give my puddings too much importance.

I don’t have a picture. Sorry.