Tag Archives: pastry

Simple Strawberry Tart (Finally, Something Good About the English Summer)

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I have been living in England for many years now, and I have enthusiastically adapted to most aspects of life here. I now queue diligently, I drink tea like it’s going out of fashion, I have learnt to bake scones and I even pop into Marks & Spencer every now and then. But try as I might, I still cannot get used to the English Summer.

It seems that for every glorious day where you can eat outdoors,  wear a sundress and do other lovely, summery things,  you have to endure weeks of barely mild temperatures, wind and rain.

Warm, sunny days, when they do happen, seem to arrive out of nowhere and there is this sense of urgency about them because you know that if you don’t cancel whatever your plans were for that day,  and quickly adapt to the unexpected appearance of the sun,  your barbecue may just remain in the garage for another year and your sundress will languish in the wardrobe until the next foreign holiday.

There is one pretty marvellous thing about English Summers though : berries. The mild, wet weather makes for juicy, sweet , delicious strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and all their berry cousins.

My local fruit and veg shop stocks local berries during the season and they are a real joy. Recently, I bought some delicious, plump strawberries. Not the shiny, identically shaped, designer strawberries you find in supermarkets; no, these were the real thing, all different shapes and sizes and some of them oddly misshapen, just like the ones I used to pick in my grandmother’s garden.

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Inspired by this bounty, I suddenly fancied a strawberry tart. A simple one, with just a buttery, sweet pastry (or pâte sablée in French) and strawberries on top. No crème pâtissière needed with strawberries this good. The only thing I added were some roughly chopped pistachios because I think they look nice and add a bit of crunch, but really you can leave them out and your tart would still be delicious.

The proportions for the pastry come from Michel Roux’s Pastry , which I highly recommend (and unfortunately no one pays me to say this).

You will need :

For a 26 cm Ø tart tin:
250 g plain flour
200 g butter, cut into small pieces and slightly softened
100 g icing sugar, sifted
A pinch of salt
2 egg yolks

600 g strawberries
20 g chopped pistachios (optional)
2 tbsp strawberry jam, to glaze

Method :

For the pastry, put the flour in a mound in a wide, shallow dish or directly on your worktop. Make a well in the middle and add in it the butter, sugar and salt.
Rub the butter and sugar together between your fingertips until combined. Add the egg yolks and combine, still with your fingertips. Gradually start drawing in the flour from the sides until it has all been added. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times then pat it into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Flour the tart tin. Roll out the pastry carefully on a well-floured surface into a round 3 to 4 mm thick. Use the rolling pin to help you lift the pastry into the tin. This pastry is very fragile and will probably tear when you try and lift it. The trick is to start lining the tin with as large a piece of pastry as you can manage, then fill the gaps with offcuts and gently press the edges down with your fingers to get a smooth pastry case.

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Refrigerate the lined tin while you preheat the oven to 180ºC / Fan 160ºC /Gas 4.

Cover the pastry with foil, add baking beans and bake blind for about 20 min (check your pastry frequently towards the end) then remove the foil and beans and bake for a further 5 min if necessary. You want a fully cooked pastry case with just a slight golden tinge.

Prepare the strawberries: wash them gently in cold water then leave to drain. Hull the strawberries, then either cut them in half and arrange them on the cooled pastry case in overlapping circles, or if you don’t have a lot of time, just use them whole (warning: this is much quicker but the strawberries will be rolling about when you slice the tart later).

Warm the jam in a small pan set over a low heat until it is liquid, then brush all over the strawberries. Scatter the chopped pistachios. Now expect some ooohs and aaahs when you bring this to the table.

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Filed under Desserts, Sweet Tarts

Looking for Comfort Food? Quick, Over Here! Chicken, Butternut Squash and Feta Pie

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If I had my way, it would be Summer all year round. I love warm weather, summer dresses, ice cream and long evenings, barbecues, and brightly coloured nail polish on my toes. I wish I could banish cold weather, umbrellas,  wellies and especially snow shovels.

If I love Summer so much, what am I doing in Northern England, might you ask. Well, I shall let you know once I have worked out a plausible answer.

In the meantime, I shall offer you the first pie recipe of the season, because if I cannot change the weather, I can at least make it more bearable with a bit of comfort food.

You will need:

For the rough puff pastry:

500 g cold butter, diced

500 g flour

2 pinches salt

About 250 ml iced water

1 egg, beaten (for glazing)

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash, cubed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped dried sage

2 chicken breasts, diced

200 g feta

Method:

Make the pastry. In a large bowl (or directly on a work surface), make a well with the flour, and add the butter and salt in the middle. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips, until the texture is grainy with the odd flake of butter. Add the iced water gradually, mixing with your hands as you go, until it forms a cohesive dough. Knead a few times, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 min.

Roll the pastry out into a rectangle about 40cm x 20cm. Fold the top third down towards you, then fold the bottom third up on top of the rest. Give it a quarter turn then repeat the rolling and folding. Wrap in cling film again, and refrigerate for 20 min.

Repeat the rolling and folding as before, and refrigerate for 20 min again, still wrapped in cling film. The pastry is now ready to use, and will happily wait in the fridge for a few days. You will need half of it for this recipe, the other half will freeze for up to a month.

Make the filling. In a large sauté pan, heat up 2 tbsp olive oil. Gently fry the onion and garlic for about 1 min, add the sage and butternut squash, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add a splash of water, cover, and cook on a low heat for about 20 min or until tender (add a bit more water if it starts to stick). Season the mixture, then tip into a bowl and reserve.

In the same sauté pan, heat up the last of the oil, and gently fry the chicken until brown on all sides and cooked through (about 4 to 5 min). Mix with the cooked squash and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C/ fan 190⁰/ Gas 6.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, and to a size slightly larger than your dish (I use a 28 cm Ø round pie dish).

Crumble the feta over the bowl containing the filling, mix well, then tip into a large pie dish.

Wet the edge of the pie dish, cover with the rolled out pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut away the extra pastry along the edge of the dish. Press all around the rim with the prongs of a fork, then cut a small hole in the middle.

Brush all over with eggwash, then if you wish, thinly score the pastry with wavy lines made with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.

Bake for about 20 min, or until nice and golden brown.

 

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Filed under Bakes, Mains, Meat dishes, Pies

Little Rhubarb and Apple Turnovers

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Every year, I look forward to the appearance of rhubarb in the shops; I absolutely love baking with it and experimenting with new recipes.

When I was growing up, there was always  an abundance of rhubarb at home, as we had plenty in the garden.  We started making turnovers with my mother as an alternative to rhubarb tart. 

Initially we were using shortcrust pastry, and making them into large triangles. I have evolved the recipe over time to the current, more indulgent version, but you can easily sustitute the puff pastry for shortcrust, and vary the size and shape of the turnovers. 

 You will need (for 40-45 turnovers):

For the rough puff pastry:
500 g plain flour
500 g cold butter, diced
2 tsp salt
250 ml very cold water

For the filling:
40 g butter
500 g rhubarb, peeled and diced
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp golden caster sugar

For glazing:
1 egg yolk, beaten

Method:

Make the pastry:
Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle where you will put the butter.

With your fingertips, lightly rub the flour into the butter until you end up with very small pieces of butter and a sandy consistency.

Gradually add some of the water, mixing as you go, until you have an elastic, coherent dough (you probably won’t need all of the water). Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 min.

On a well-floured board or worktop, roll the pastry out to a 40 cm x 20 cm rectangle. Fold it in 3, then give it a 1/4 turn. Roll it out again to a rectangle, fold as before, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 min.

Repeat the last step in full, then rest the pastry in the fridge for another 20 min. It is now ready to use.

Meanwhile, make the filling:
In a large frying pan or sauté pan with a lid, melt the butter on a medium heat. Add the apple and the rhubarb and cook for about a minute. Add the vanilla and sugar, stir, then turn the heat down and cover.

Cook for about 15 min, or until soft and the rhubarb starts falling apart. Leave to cool.

Assemble the turnovers:
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/  180ºC fan/ Gas 6.

Cut the pastry in half, leave 1 half in the fridge until needed and roll the other one out on a well-floured surface to a thickness of about 4 mm.

Stamp out as many circles as you can with a 10 cm fluted cutter. Spoon a little bit of filling in the middle of each circle, about 2 tsp should do.

Brush the edge of each circle with a bit of water, fold the circle in half and press down along the edge with your fingers to seal.

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Re-roll the trimmings and repeat, then roll out the other half of the pastry. Keep going until you run out of filling.

Transfer to a floured, non-stick baking sheet. Brush some egg yolk over the top, and bake for about 12 min or until well-risen and golden brown.

 

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Filed under Bakes, Breakfast, Cakes, Desserts, Pastry