asparagus and cheese tarts

jars

It’s Monday night, blackened quiet, a few hours away from the pale dawn of Tuesday. I’m sitting on the couch, right hand nursing a glass of wine as my left taps on plastic keys.

The wine seemed like a good idea three hours ago because… well, I like wine. But as sleep envelops my senses, I’m starting to regret the decision. This blog has been long-neglected since I returned from Europe, buried under work and fatigue. So, as I’ve found a quiet evening, I’m determined to pump out a post before my brain retires. Hear that, red wine? Good.

asparagus

buttercheese

A few nights ago, Aaron and I picnicked at King’s Park with two of our very best friends. As night slowly swallowed the blush of day, we spread blankets upon dewy grass and ate smooth cultured butter upon chewy sourdough.

Glasses were clinked and stories were swapped beneath plaid woollen blankets. Our feet grew cold and our hearts warmed as we feasted on fresh mango, olive and zucchini salad, beef meatballs with nectarine chutney, soft cheese, asparagus tarts and cured salami.

Oh, it was good.

mix

By late evening, we were laughing into empty plates as brown ducks battled over the leftovers. My half-eaten asparagus tarts (the product of a glut of new-season asparagus at the market) were swiftly packed away from prying beaks and feet.

By 10:00pm, the canopy of cloud started weeping on the darkened landscape. We shuffled towards the car, lugging baskets, lanterns and blankets, packing them away before officially calling the night’s end.

pans

These asparagus and cheese tarts are still a bit of work in progress. The first taste-testers proclaimed them to be a ‘cross between sweet and savoury’ due to the creamy mascarpone and lemon zest.

Despite liking the original tarts, I’ve amped up the flavour in the recipe below with extra cheese and peppery Dijon mustard. The finished product is a shallow, pale-golden savoury tart with streaks of crunchy asparagus, fragrant lemon zest, salty cheese and soft egg custard. The crisp cheese pastry adds both flavour and transportability. Chipotle sauce is optional (unless you’re, me, of course).

thyme

side

These little tarts are begging to be brought to your next barbecue or family gathering. Their cheesy asparagus flavour is perfect for what’s left of the Australian Spring asparagus season*.

Get amongst it.

*Northern Hemisphere friends, don’t let winter stop you. Thin batons of raw zucchini, halved cherry tomatoes or bits of finely diced broccoli would be a perfect substitute for asparagus during the off-season.

presented

Asparagus and Cheese Tarts

Makes eight 12cm diameter x 2cm height tarts

Pastry:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 40g wholemeal spelt flour (or just add another 40g plain flour)
  • 85g butter
  • 85g cheese (mixture of cheddar and Parmesan)

Filling:

  • 6 free-range eggs
  • 100g cheese (cheddar and/or Parmesan)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp freshly grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
  • 2 bunches (400g) fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and halved (do NOT use canned asparagus. Substitute raw zucchini batons or halved cherry tomatoes if desired)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 50g blue cheese, crumbled (such as Roquefort or Stilton, optional)

For the pastry: Butter eight loose-bottomed tart tins, place onto a sturdy oven tray and set aside in a cool place (put them in the refrigerator if your apartment or house is hot). Put the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the flour and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the grated cheese and mix. Add 3 tbsp cold water and mix until the pastry forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 5 minutes whilst you prepare your filling.

pastry pastry2

When pastry is sufficiently chilled, roll it into a log and cut it into eight even portions.

pastrycutPress one portion into a rough circle and flatten using the ball of your hand. Carefully lay it into a buttered tart case. Press to fit with your fingers (don’t worry if the pastry seems very thin, it’s supposed to be like that). Line each case with baking paper and baking beads. Blind bake at 180 degrees C (360 degrees f) for 10 minutes or until light golden.

For the filling: whilst the cases are blind baking, combine eggs, herbs, cheese, lemon zest, salt and pepper, Dijon mustard and mascarpone into a large bowl. Whisk together well.

Wash, trim and halve your asparagus spears. After removing the tart cases from oven, gently distribute the egg mix between the cases, then top with sliced asparagus, salt and pepper. Dot with crumbled blue cheese (optional).

baked

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until egg mix is set (do not allow to brown). Enjoy warm or cold with chutney, bread and/or some dressed rocket leaves.

aerial

 

chocolate hazelnut tart. and heading home

header I’m decluttering today. Decluttering my mind, aided by steaming earl grey with a dollop of runny honey. In a Rolling Stones cup, no less, because… well, that’s what the English do.

tea

It’s another grey autumn day. Rain hits lightly on glass as I glance at the cluttered back streets of Chertsey, Surrey. Cars shift absently as their owners go about daily business, it’s Wednesday after all; not that that makes much difference to this Aussie girl pounding Digestives on her uncle’s kitchen counter.

It’s somewhat therapeutic to crush round wheatmeal biscuits. I’d say it’s the repetitiveness combined with a defined crunch as each morsel disappears under my rolling pin. There are definitely benefits to not having a food processor; I can hear hazelnuts sizzling as the oven heat toasts them to perfect golden brown.

crushcrushedbutter

I’m making a chocolate tart for dessert tonight. Thick, rich chocolate cream encased in a crunchy hazelnut shell, wholly in gratitude to my Uncle for letting us stay at his home for almost a week. It’s the second time we’ve dropped by, the first being upon our arrival in old Blighty some five weeks ago. We’ve since travelled from London to Devon to almost-Cornwall to Bristol and Bath, Newport to Cardiff to Swansea to… well, you get the point.

We’ve been all over Great Britain in a massive road trip, some highlights of which include stops in the Scottish highlands, the North York Moors and Oxfordshire. Aaron and I also spent an all-too-short day getting stick in blackberry brambles with Trixie from Almonds are Mercurial (and her lovely Yorkie, Clemmie). I miss them already.

berries

kilchurnlaurahill sheeeep

After almost four months, Aaron and I are now immersed in the very last chapter of our journey. Time with family in Chertsey before a few days in London (essential: eating this at the London Borough Market; Sam your feed is blissful torture), catch-ups with friends and relatives and then… homeward bound.

In just over one week, we’ll be back on Australian soil, breathing salty ocean air and eating toast smothered in butter and Vegemite. We’ll also be baking in temperatures nearing 30 degrees C (just take a look at this forecast) which will be a shock after weeks of frigid temperatures and necessary wooly hats.

But regardless, I can’t wait. I’m going home.

misenplace

secondmain

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Serves 8

Base:

  • 200g (approx) digestive (or other wheatmeal) biscuits, crushed
  • 50g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly crushed (some chunks are a good thing)
  • 65g butter (doesn’t really matter if it’s unsalted or salted), softened
Filling:
  • 150g good quality dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids), chopped
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 325ml single cream (thickened if you can find it)
  • 1/4 tsp gelatine powder, dissolved in a splash of hot water

Combine biscuit crumbs, crushed hazelnuts and softened butter in a medium bowl.

basemix

Use your hands to mix well, ensuring that butter is evenly distributed. Press mixture over the base and sides of a loose-based rectangular fluted pan (about 35cm x 12cm, 3cm deep). Ensure that the crumbs are firmly packed (use the back of a spoon or a small glass to press down if required).

base

Refrigerate whilst you prepare the filling.

Place chocolate and half of the cream into a glass or metal bowl over a boiling saucepan of water (ensure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Stir constantly for 3-4 minutes or until smooth.

cream

melt

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly (10-15 minutes). Using an electric mixer, combine chocolate mixture with the remaining cream. Beat until thickened, then add in the dissolved gelatine. Beat until thoroughly combined. Gently pour the filling in an even layer into the refrigerated tart case.

filling

Carefully transfer into your refrigerator (don’t worry about covering it at this stage). Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.

Remove from fluted tin. Using a heated knife, carefully cut into 8 slices to serve. Dust with cocoa if desired. The rich, smooth chocolate filling combines beautifully with a dollop of crème fraîche and some plump, tart raspberries.

secondend endI’m going to end with just a few more pictures of the stunning British landscape; rolling hills, pea soup fog, waterbirds and bunting in the breeze.

Australian friends and family, see you very soon.

foglandscaperiversidered holyrood sheepinheather tearoom whitby

saffron pear and dark chocolate tart

crust

It was Federal election day yesterday. For over fourteen hours, Australians around the country were scratching their heads, queuing, eating sausage sizzles and numbering boxes on white and green ballot papers. At 6.00pm Western Australian time, the last polling station closed as the sun dipped below the horizon. Counting began and we, the people, waited.

From a personal point of view, Aaron and I waited at our friend Manuel’s house. For the first time, we held a spur of the moment ‘Election Party’ complete with multiple televisions, a barrel bonfire, high carbohydrate snacks and plenty of soothing beverages.

applecab radishes

We lounged on outdoor couches as the media counted votes and seats, snacking on pistachios whilst commenting on the value of Australian democracy (for which, to clarify, I’m very grateful) and our strange Prime Ministerial candidates.

The most prominent were 1. Clive Palmer, an eclectic, singing oil and gas billionaire with an AU$70 million aeroplane, a replica Titanic and a Jurassic Park-under-construction, 2. Tony Abbott the lycra-clad, foot-in-mouth Liberal, 3. present Prime Minister for the Labor Party, Kevin Rudd the backstabbing ‘psychopath’, 4. Bob Katter and his ‘quality blokes and sheilas’ and 5. Christine Milne the self-professed Greens ‘underdog’. Ah, dear. Quality indeed (if you’re interested in further pre-vote commentary on this present election, take a look at Rob Pop’s excellent post on his blog, Humans are Weird. So good, as is this post-election blooper reel).

tablelectionfirepit

My food contribution was a platter of pulled pork rolls with extra chilli and pork crackling, all of which were inhaled in minutes with cold Coronas and earthy Shiraz. As rain started to fall, we retreated to Manuel’s ‘band room’ to play lego before eventually heading home at 12.30am (just kidding. That Duplo actually belongs to our friend’s child, Lorena. I just wish it was mine).

It’s now 9.00am on Sunday, 8th September 2013. We have a new Prime Minister – the Liberal Party’s Tony Abbott – a former Rhodes scholar, boxer and trainee Priest who wears lycra bicycle shorts, has three ‘not bad looking daughters‘, makes unfortunate media gaffes and smuggles budgies to the beach. Our previous Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has conceded defeat and retreated to the back bench.

pears peel

This morning’s media is full of the night-that-was, with rife speculation over the future leadership of the Australian Labor party and various candidates who failed to retain their seats. In the glare of the morning sun, other marginal candidates are up to their usual antics while I sit on my couch crunching through a bowl of almond granola, organic yoghurt and strawberries.

I’m unusually tired, bleary eyed and vague. I’ve also realised that half of this chocolate tart post has been consumed with political sentiment. Okay, let’s revise.

chocolate

It’s been a very long time since I made a ‘proper’ chocolate tart. Brownies, yes. Flourless chocolate cakes, fondants, mousse and pavlova? Yes. But a pastry base, filled with chocolate ganache? I think it’s been about a year… the last significant effort being a luscious salted caramel and 70% cocoa tart that received rave reviews at a Summer dinner party.

This particular tart was made after I discovered a recipe by Matthew Evans in a recent edition of SBS Feast magazine (an occasional magazine-stand indulgence, due to its beautiful multicultural recipes and inspiring photographs). I immediately fell in love with the combination of star anise, saffron, pear and dark chocolate, lovingly wrapped in buttery pastry.

saffronopen

Now, as you well know… I struggle when following recipes. I’m constantly tempted to exercise my ‘creative license’ through adaptations, substitutions and omissions. This time round, I’m proud to say that I almost followed the exact recipe; my two modifications were: 1. the substitution of 70% cocoa dark chocolate for half of the specified milk, and 2. the substitution of 50% more Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva rum instead of the specified brandy.

I loved this tart. Every bite announces the bitterness of dark chocolate on the palate, softened by sweet, saffron-infused pear, notes of star anise, buttery pastry and the warmth of rum. It’s spectacular to present also; black-brown against soft yellow with streaks of fine crimson and powdered sugar.

staranise

Due to its richness, I’d recommend serving this tart in fine slices with a dollop of double cream or crème fraîche. If desired, you can also reduce the saffron-infused poaching water down to a syrup. It looks beautiful when drizzled onto the plate.

halfeaten

Saffron Pear and Dark Chocolate Tart

This tart takes roughly 4 hours to make. I’d recommend starting the day before if you can.

Adapted from a recipe by Matthew Evans, published in Feast, Issue 23 / August 2013

Pastry:

  • 230g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp raw caster sugar
  • 110g cold unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Filling:

  • 1 cup (220g) raw caster sugar
  • generous pinch of genuine saffron
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 pears (Beurre Bosc or Gold Rush preferable), peeled, halved and cored
  • 200ml full-fat thickened cream
  • 10 star anise
  • 200g 70% dark chocolate
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 3-4 tbsp rum or brandy (to taste)
  • Icing sugar, to serve – optional

To make the pastry: place the flour, butter, sugar and salt into a food processor bowl. Process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg yolk with 60ml iced water. With the food processor motor running, gradually add the egg yolk and water to the flour mix; process until the mixture just comes together.

pastrymix

Shape the pastry into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before rolling.

pastrycase

When adequately chilled, roll the pastry disc out to a 3mm thick circle. Line the base and sides of a greased 24cm pie dish or tasrt pan, then prick all over with a fork. Place the unbaked pastry case in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Remove the pastry from the freezer, then line the case with baking paper and pie weights, uncooked rice or beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove weights and paper. Bake for a further 5 minutes or until the base of the pastry is dry to touch. Set aside to cool.

poaching

To make the filling: place 1L of water into a large saucepan with the caster sugar, saffron and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then add the pears. Bring to a simmer (if the pears start floating, weigh them down with a saucer so that they are fully immersed in the liquid). Cover with a cartouche (see image on right), reduce heat to medium-low and poach pears for 30 minutes or until tender (easily pierced with a knife).

poachingpearmont

Allow to cool, then cut each pear half lengthwise into two pieces.

Place the cream and star anise into a small saucepan. Over medium heat, bring the cream to just below boiling point (small bubbles should just be appearing). Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20-30 minutes.

creamstaranise sieve

Chop chocolate into small pieces. Strain the cream through a fine strainer to remove the star anise and any ‘milk skin’. Place back into a medium pot and reheat. Add chocolate all at once, whisking continuously until smooth.

melted

When the mixture is glossy and lump-free, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brandy or rum. Allow to cool.

To bake: preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees f). Evenly spread the cooled tart shell with the star-anise flavoured ganache, then very gently lay the pears onto the surface in a circular pattern, as below (try and make sure that the pears don’t sink too much).

prebake

Bake the tart for 25 minutes or until the ganache is just set. Cool completely before cutting with a heated knife.

Serve with double cream, dusted with icing sugar if desired.

piece4

lime and burnt sugar meringue tart with coconut pastry

tartheader

Over the past few years, Tahitian limes have become a staple item in my shopping basket, mostly for use in salads (such as Mexican Corn Salad), cocktails (it’s great friends with gin), marinades and Mexican food. I absolutely love them… they’re both acidic and sweet, refreshing and adaptable, whilst their distinct floral aroma reminds me of Summer every time.

The only frustrating thing about limes is that their market price seems to vary greatly from week to week in Australia. In recent months, they’ve been up to $1.50 PER LIME at the supermarket… it’s, uh… definitely affected my cocktail consumption. So, you can imagine my delight when I was unexpectedly gifted with an entire bag of limes by a friend at work the other day. I almost danced in delight, holding the crinkling plastic shopping bag with two hands as I squirreled it into my office drawer.

limebox

When I got home, I counted my bounty whilst adding in three supermarket limes from the crisper compartment of my refrigerator. The total? Twenty two beautiful, shining orbs, stalks attached, some gently blushed with hints of ripened gold. They were perfect, like little juicy emeralds sitting on my kitchen table. A growing sense of excitement rose like a butterfly, fluttering in my stomach… what to do with twenty two limes? It was too late to start cooking there and then, so the limes were returned to their shopping bag. I placed them in the crisper compartment next to some friendly heirloom tomatoes, kale and beetroots… then I went to bed. With lime on the brain.

limes

So, let’s cut to today. I’ve been sitting in my kitchen surrounded by a week’s worth of lime-related productivity. There’s lime curd, chilli-lime pickle, lime simple syrup for cocktails, Mexican salsa and some frozen watermelon, tequila, mint and lime pops. I also candied some lime peel in sugar syrup for cake decorating; it’s been sitting in a sugary little pile on my bench top, waiting to adorn a spectacular creation. These little candied treats eventually inspired me to create a lime curd tart, topped with a cloud of Italian meringue and sugared strips of crunchy lime zest.

curdcrust

In homage to the end of Summer, I also decided to experiment with a recipe for coconut oil pastry. After reading several recipes including this one from Baking Bites, I ended up with a pallid, soft mess of a pastry shell that was (unfortunately) only fit for the bin. Take two: my own version of butter shortcrust pastry with coconut sugar and additional coconut oil. This pastry shell worked perfectly; buttery, short and golden with a soft, sweet hint of coconut. Unfortunately, both versions of coconut pastry completely solidified whilst ‘resting’ in the refrigerator, so if you’re going to bake the recipe as written, I’d encourage you to maintain an attitude of patient persistence whilst kneading. It’ll all be worth it in the end (or alternatively, if you want to avoid the solid coconut experience, just increase the butter to 125g and omit the coconut oil altogether). The burnt sugar meringue can also be a touch challenging, so if you’d like to increase the simplicity of this recipe I’d recommend only reducing your sugar syrup to the ‘soft ball’ stage, 6-8 minutes or 115 degrees C (240 degrees f). I’ve also included more tips for making Italian meringue under ‘notes’.

Happy cooking (oh, and now that I’ve scared you regarding the level of difficulty… this tart really isn’t so hard if you break it down into several steps. And once you taste it, I guarantee that the work will be all worthwhile).

pieside2

Lime and Burnt Sugar Meringue Tart with Coconut Pastry

Makes 1 x 23cm tart

This tart includes four components: coconut shortcrust pastry case, lime curd cream filling, burnt sugar Italian meringue and candied lime peel. I’ve broken down each element into an individual ‘recipe’ with instructions for assembly to follow.

crust

1. Coconut shortcrust pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups (250g) plain flour
  • 100g butter, chilled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil or coconut butter (I use Loving Earth)
  • 1/3 cup (40g) organic coconut sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp chilled water

Place the flour and coconut sugar into a large bowl. Rub in the cubed butter and coconut oil with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolk and chilled water, then knead until the mixture comes together.

coconutmont

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the mixture is smooth. Mold into a flattened ball, cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3o minutes prior to using.

Now for the rolling part: lay a piece of baking parchment over your bench, then sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn out your dough, and start kneading it again until it reaches a pliable consistency (let me tell you from the start; this is not a fun pastry to work with. The coconut oil makes it go rock hard if you leave it too long in the refrigerator so don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. You’ll just need to knead it consistently until it softens again).

crustmont

Once your dough softens, roll it out with a floured rolling pin into a large disc, 0.5cm thick. Drape it over your rolling pin then transfer it across to a 23cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Press your pastry into the edges of the pan and make sure that the surface is covered evenly (don’t worry if your pastry fractures, just pick up the torn pieces and press it all back together inside your tart pan). Prick the surface evenly with the tines of a fork, then place your pastry case into the refrigerator to chill for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees f). Remove your chilled tart case from the refrigerator and line it with foil or baking parchment. Fill the lined case with rice, ceramic pie weights or dried beans. Now it’s time for blind baking: place your weighted tart case into the oven and bake it for about 20 minutes.

After the time has elapsed, remove the case from the oven and take out the weights, foil and/or baking paper. Use a fork to prick and flatten any bubbles that may have formed in the pastry, then return the case to the oven at a reduced temperature of 180 degrees C (350 degrees f).  Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the tart shell is crisp and light golden brown.

Let the case cool completely before adding your filling.

 

curdjarlike

2. Lime curd filling:

  • 1 cup (130g) white caster sugar
  • 60g organic unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh Tahitian lime juice (I used about six medium limes, or to taste)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp lime zest (to taste)
  • 2 whole free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup heavy double cream (or clotted cream, if you can find it)

Place a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water to form a double boiler. Add the sugar, butter, lime juice and lime zest into the bowl, then stir the mixture over medium heat until the butter melts.

limeymont

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding your eggs in a gradual, steady stream. Whisk continuously until all of your eggs are combined with the lime mixture, then return the bowl over your pot of hot water and keep stirring until your mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 20 minutes).

When your curd is ready, place it into a clean bowl or jug then refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to cool and thicken prior to whipping it with the heavy cream until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate your lime cream filling for 2 hours prior to filling your pastry case.

meringuetop2

3. Italian burnt sugar meringue:
  • 3 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (130g) white caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
Place the egg whites into a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand-mixer. Beat until soft peaks form, then set aside.
meringuemont
Place the white caster sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup of water into a medium saucepan over low heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve without stirring, then increase the heat to medium, or until the mixture reaches a slow boil. Continue to boil, brushing down the sides of your pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally (to prevent crystallisation) for about 10 minutes or until spots of toffee colour appear. Remove your pan from the heat at this point and swirl the mixture until it darkens to a shade of light toffee.
meringuebowl
Now’s the difficult part. Take your hot pan of burnt sugar syrup, and pour it slowly down the side of the mixing bowl whilst continuing to beat your egg whites (this is much easier if you have a stand mixer). Continue to beat until the meringue is firm, glossy and cooled (about 4-5 minutes).
Refrigerate your mixture until you’re ready to assemble your tart.
zestraw

4. Candied lime peel:

Always exercise caution when working with hot sugar syrup

  • 1 lime
  • 1 1/4 cups (160g) white caster sugar
  • extra caster sugar or powdered sugar, to coat
limeestmont
Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the peel (or ‘rind’) from your lime in 1-cm strips. Use a sharp knife to remove any white pith, then cut the peel into strips (about 2mm wide).
Blanch your lime peel in freshly boiled water for one minute. Drain, then refresh the peel immediately in an ice-water bath. Repeat process, then drain and set aside.
candzestmont
Heat the sugar with 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble, add in the drained lime peel. Allow to bubble and reduce for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the syrup becomes viscous and your peel appears translucent and softened.
boil
Using a slotted spoon, place the peel onto a wire rack to drain. Separate the strands and toss them in caster sugar or powdered sugar to coat. You can store this candied peel in an airtight container for up to three days.
candiedmont
To assemble:
Place your tart shell onto a serving platter. Fill it with a smooth, even layer of your lime cream filling. Take your Italian meringue and heap it into the centre of the tart, leaving a 2cm/1 inch border around the edge. Use a knife to sculpt the surface decoratively, then if desired, you can either brown it in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 220 degrees C (430 degrees f) or blowtorch the surface until toasted. Top with candied lime peel to serve.
tartlikey

Notes:

  • This page from Pastry Chef Online contains a great tutorial on making Italian meringue. It also outlines the importance of safety precautions when working with candied sugar.
  • Despite my complaints, all dough needs to rest in the refrigerator before rolling to allow the gluten in the dough to relax. Despite the difficulties of coconut oil in dough, do not skip this ‘resting’ process or you’ll end up with a tough pie crust.
  • You can save your lime-infused blanching liquid and sugar syrup to make a simple syrup for cocktails. Just add them together into a medium saucepan with the juice of three limes, then reduce the lot down into a syrupy consistency. Store in a sterilised glass jar… delicious with vodka or gin, soda water, muddled blackberries, a wedge of fresh lime and loads of mint.

pieside

Extra facts about Coconut Oil:

If you, like me, are new to using coconut oil in cooking, you might be interested in reading a little more about its stated health benefits here. I wouldn’t suggest that you start guzzling it by the litre (read this contrasting article by Kathleen Zelman, Registered Dietitian), however in moderation it contains many heart-friendly short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44%) and myristic (16.8%). It also has a very high smoke point which means it’s an ideal oil for creating crispy, delicious foods with a delicate hint of fragrant coconut. Warning: coconut oil is contraindicated for those with hypertension (high blood pressure). Consult your doctor if you have any further questions about the suitability of coconut oil for your diet.

frangipane tart with rhubarb pomegranate compote and pistachio crumble

It’s a Monday afternoon and I’m sitting at my kitchen table watching some deep red compote slowly seep into green-flecked pistachio pastry. The afternoon sun seems to complement the redness, highlighting chunks of moist rhubarb in pomegranate syrup under a blanket of lemon-scented frangipane. The tart is left over from a Sunday lunch spent with family at my mother’s house, where we merrily ate roasted bird with all the trimmings whilst discussing the nature of parenting in today’s society. As you can imagine, this soon required sweetening, in the form of the above mentioned tart with lashings of vanilla ice-cream.

You’ll find below the first version of my tart ‘recipe’, which I will endeavour to refine as I get used to measuring things. It’s got a crunchy pistachio, lemon & spice pastry base covered with rhubarb & pomegranate compote, soft lemon-infused frangipane & a drizzle of syrup. The tart filling went well with the accompanying pistachio oat crumble, vanilla ice cream & a sprinkling of fragrant thyme, however it’s equally delicious enjoyed on it’s own with a healthy dollop of double cream. Instructions for all of the elements are below so feel free to add or substitute as you wish.

And that’s my first post completed! Well, except for the recipe, so read on right here:

Frangipane Tart with Rhubarb Pomegranate Compote & Spiced Lemon Pistachio Oat Crumble

(I’ve divided this recipe up into sections for convenience, but I’d recommend you read through to the bottom before baking to understand how everything fits together)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 140g unsalted butter , cut into small pieces
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g pistachio nuts, coarsely ground in a mortar & pestle
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp Herbie’s fragrant sweet spices* (or equivalent 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a few drops of vanilla extract

To make the pastry: Rub the flour & butter together in a large bowl until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add in the sugar, lemon zest, crushed pistachios, spices & a pinch of salt. Mix slightly. Work in the egg yolk & vanilla until you have a smooth dough – don’t worry if it’s still a little crumbly, it’s quite a ‘short’ pastry so this is to be expected. Shape your dough into a slightly flattened disc, wrap it in plastic wrap & refrigerate it for at least an hour, or even overnight.

When you are ready to bake: Flour a flat surface & roll your dough out to about 0.5cm thick. Roll it over your rolling pin & place it into a 22-25cm round fluted tart tin with a removable base. Don’t worry if it breaks, just pick up any stray pieces & press them into the tart pan until you’ve completely covered the base & sides. Leave a slight pastry overhang as it’ll shrink a little as it cooks. Prick the base with a fork to allow for steam escaping as you blind-bake it. Refrigerate the tin & pastry case for 20 minutes prior to blind-baking.

Blind baking: Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees f). Place some greaseproof paper inside your unbaked tart shell, and fill it with ceramic pie weights, beans or rice. Place your tart shell in the oven & bake it for about 10 minutes with the weights, then five minutes uncovered. Remove it when it’s just started to ‘dry’ or set on the base & the edges are just slightly golden. Remove & allow to cool slightly before covering it in compote (recipe below).

Rhubarb Pomegranate Compote:

  • approximately 4-5 cups of fresh rhubarb, tips & ends of stalk removed (including green leaves) sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of 1 pomegranate, seeds strained out
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

To make the compote: Place all of the above ingredients into a medium saucepan & bring to the boil, stirring regularly. Allow to reduce to a syrupy consistency & taste for sweetness (add a little more sugar or lemon as required, the intention is to create a sweet-but-tart jam). The compote is ready when the rhubarb has broken down & the mixture will slightly set when placed onto a cold (refrigerated) plate. Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly. Fill your blind-baked tart shell to a depth of 1cm. You will need about another half-cup of this mixture to use with extra rhubarb for serving; however I placed the rest of my mixture into a sterilised jar (you can sterilise your own jars by either placing them in a very hot oven until hot, or placing them in the sink with boiling water) and I’ve still got about a third of the jar left to use on toast or as an ice-cream topping.

Frangipane Filling:

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 110g almond meal
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-2 tsp almond essence

To prepare the Frangipane: Cream butter & caster sugar together with a hand-blender (or Kitchen Aid, if you’re lucky enough to have one). Add in egg, then egg yolk, one at a time until creamy. Fold in your almond meal, lemon zest & almond essence to taste. Now you can either pipe or spoon your frangipane mixture into your tart shell, over your rhubarb compote. Don’t worry if there are any small gaps, as they will fill naturally as the frangipane cooks. I topped mine with a swirl of rhubarb compote, for decorative purposes.

Now, heat your oven to 180 degrees C (360 degrees f). Place your tart tin onto another flat tray (the tray will conduct the heat & ensure that the base of your tart is crisp & golden) and cook it, turning the tray regularly if you do not have a fan-forced oven, for 30-40 minutes until the frangipane is puffed & golden and your tart shell is biscuity brown. After cooking, trim away any overhanging pastry for neat edges. Whilst your tart is still hot, glaze the top with warmed honey, paying special attention to the pastry edges. Allow to cool.

Pistachio & Oat Crumble:

  • 40g caster sugar
  • 40g plain flour
  • 1/4 cup wholegrain oats
  • 30g chilled butter, chopped into small cubes
  • grated rind of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp of Herbie’s fragrant sweet spices*
  • 100g pistachio nuts, coarsely ground in a mortar & pestle

For the crumble: Mix flour, sugar, spices, oats & ground pistachios together in a bowl. Rub in your butter by hand until the mixture clumps together like coarse breadcrumbs. Tip your mixture onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and make sure that all of the clumps are roughly the same size (though I do like having some bigger chunks of biscuity crumble every now and then). Bake in the oven (alongside your tart, if able) at 180 degrees C (360 degrees f) for approx 10 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

To serve:

  • I like to serve a wedge of the frangipane tart with a spoonful of extra compote (I steamed three extra sticks of rhubarb, washed and cut into 1cm pieces, very briefly in a splash of water with a vanilla bean then mixed this with the extra 1/2 cup of reserved compote for a ‘chunkier’ mixture), a sprinkling of crunchy pistachio crumble, some fresh thyme leaves & a scoop of vanilla ice cream or double cream. In the photos I actually mixed the extra reserved compote with sliced strawberries which is equally delicious.
  • Leftovers can be kept in the fridge, covered, for a few days. I would recommend letting the tart come to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

*Herbie’s fragrant sweet spices is a beautiful mix of ground coriander seeds, cassia bark, cinnamon quills, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, poppy seeds, cloves, cardamom & rose petals which I’ve come to love as a fragrant addition to cakes, pastries & other baked goods. You can buy your own here (or check out the Herbie’s website to find this spice mix and other Herbie’s products).

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