One of the things I love about cooking is the presentation of the finished article. I’m quite happy pottering away in the kitchen working on the finishing touches but with two young kids it’s become less and less about good looking food and more about speed and shortcuts. This mushroom & cheese tart looks very rustic but is the perfect quick tart. A couple of minutes to fry some mushrooms and onions, mix up some eggs, cheese and herbs. Unwrap some ready made puff pastry. Throw it all together and into the oven and by the time you’ve cleaned everything up you have a delicious tasting tart. Perfect to take on a picnic, a light lunch with a mixed salad or even as a starter.
Fresh cherries and a cherry bakewell tart in May?
I wouldn’t normally buy fresh cherries so early in the season but for all the wrong reasons I found myself picking out the bright red ones this morning and not caring about all the air miles involved in getting them to this country.
It was with a touch of sadness that I was thinking about a family on the other side of the world. I don’t know the family involved but as a blogger I have come across the Baby Boy Bakery blog many times. It is a blog which celebrates the life of a young family and is full of beautiful pictures of a young boy with the most beautiful red hair. To learn that this beautiful young child was taken so tragically and so early from his family is just heart breaking. People from all over the world have shown their support by posting images of red balloons and one of the most poignant of these images is of a little boy floating away with a bunch of red balloons attached to his hand. I must’ve had this image in my mind when I was shopping in our local Farm Shop because as I looked at a display of bright red cherries all I could see was that they looked like bright red balloons. So there I was buying my fruit and veg, looking at a pile of cherries and crying for a little boy that I never knew. Crying for what his parents must be going through. Crying for all the times I’ve been annoyed with my children over silly little things. Crying for all the times I should have given my children a hug but didn’t because I had something else more important to do. Just crying because no parent should ever have to go through the loss of their own child. When I got home I made a quick picture with the cherries and photographed it. It is now up on my fridge to remind me of how precious life is. When my daughter saw the picture she was slightly bemused as to why I had a bunch of cherries on some blue card. “Don’t you think they look like red balloons” I asked. “No, they just look like cherries” was the response.
Maybe they do just look like cherries but to me they mean so much more.
Most of us will have heard the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but may not think of it in terms of food. Well, this Italian Almond Tart makes me think of exactly that. It is nothing much to look at – it is all very beige and there is no lovely sauce or chocolate dripping down the sides to make us drool. A real plain Jane! Until, that is you cut into it and serve yourself a deliciously moist and fragrant slice to go with your afternoon tea. It is so good that I made one the very next day for my hubby to take into work and everybody loved it. I made my own almond paste and I would highly recommend that you try this at least once. It is so easy to make, it’s fresh and full of flavour and will make all the difference to your tart. Your choice of jam will also play a big part in how your finished tart tastes. For my first attempt I used a cherry jam which had whole cherries in it. It was quite sweet and I wasn’t overly enthused by the chunks of cherry. For my second attempt I used a smooth Christmas spice fruit jam and I thought this was much better.
For those of you who are interested in how I decorated the tart – yes I did stand and pick out all the whole slices of almonds from a pack and yes it did take me a long time to place them all so neatly round the entire tart and yes I am completely mad! I also made a rose from some of the left over almond paste. I only placed it on the tart 10 minutes before the tart was due to come out the oven to crisp it up a bit and give it some colour.
These blueberry and thyme curd tarts were inspired by nothing more than my love for all things purple. I had just seen Jen’s gorgeous blackcurrant & vanilla éclairs and decided I wanted to make something as colorful and vibrant and came up with these little tarts. There wasn’t much of the thyme flavour noticeable so I would probably try adding a bit more next time. The blueberry curd is finger licking good and would look and taste lovely on any sponge cake or just served with clotted cream and scones.
This month’s Classic French challenge is a French fruit tart. Now, in all the times I have visited France I don’t think I have ever been tempted to buy one of those glossy, sweet tarts that seem to adorn every French patisserie window that you pass. I think it is the thought of cold custard that has always put me off. So when Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes set the challenge I decided to made these delicious strawberry tarts. They were quite easy to make and would make a delicious dessert that would go well with most menus. They were not overly sweet and were very light.
Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add them, along with the pod, to the milk in a saucepan. Bring almost to the boil, being careful not to let it burn.
Remove the milk from the heat, strain and set to one side to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light in colour.
Add in the flour and cornflour and mix well.
Slowly pour the warm milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
Return the mixture back to the pan and bring back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking continuously until slightly thicker and smooth.
Remove from the heat and cover with wax paper pressed directly against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin forming.
Refrigerate until chilled.
To assemble the tarts – fill the pastry cases about ¾ full with pastry cream and decorate the top with whole, fresh strawberries or sliced as I have done.
To glaze the tarts – Heat the strawberry jam until just melted and brush lightly over the strawberries.
When making custard I always use a balloon whisk to stir the mixture whilst it is in the pan. This prevents any lumps forming but remember to not use your best non stick pans if you do this. I don't know how many pans I have ruined this way!
If you think the custard has turned a bit lumpy then pour through a sieve and your problem is solved.
If you want to prepare the tarts well in advance it is probably best to seal the pastry cases before you add the pastry cream. Brush the baked cases lightly with some egg white and then pop back in the oven for 1 minute to seal. This should prevent a soggy bottom.