Tag Archives: tart

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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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.