Summer Berries and Custard Tart

In case you hadn’t noticed, summer has begun! And yes, you would be excused for not realising seeing as I am currently writing this blog post in my flat and when I cast my gaze outside the weather is simply horrible. Truth be told, we had some nice weather recently, although I keep on repeating myself I shouldn’t be expecting too much from the North of the UK. Anyway, despite the weather and what not, we should still celebrate the beginning of summer. In my opinion, nothing beats a dessert with an abundance of sweet and ripe berries.

This recipe is freely inspired from one which appeared in a summer issue of the Feel Good Good magazine. I like keeping old magazines, I stack them on my shelves in chronological order (I have a bit of an OCD, I’ll have you know) and use them as reference material when I am stuck for ideas or need pointers to prepare my weekly shopping list. I used blueberries and raspberries in this tart, but you can swap these for any other berries you might like. Also, I kept the custard quite plain, but you could look into flavouring it with lemon, orange… you get the gist. This tart is best served slightly chilled, so the custard will not risk oozing out everywhere.

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Ingredients (for the sweet shortcrust pastry)

  • 200g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp cold water

Ingredients (for the custard)

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 35g custard powder (or cornflour/flour)
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
  • 300ml full fat milk
  • 200ml double cream

Ingredients (for the decoration)

  • 250g blueberries
  • 150g raspberries
  • 2 tbsp berry jam (I used cherry and berries)
  • 1/2 lemon, zest only
  • some mint leaves (optional)

Method

  1. Start by making the pastry. You can do this in a food processor, but for such a small amount I usually tend to avoid using the heavy machinery and rely on my hands and a glass bowl. Pour in the flour, icing sugar, salt and butter, then use your fingertips to rub the fat into the flour mixture, stopping only when you get to a sandy consistency and the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
  2. Pour in the yolk mixture, keeping about 1 tsp back. Use a knife to move the mixture around and start to combine it, then use your hands to bring the pastry together. Only add the remaining yolk and water mixture if the pastry looks too wet. Use the pastry block to clean the bowl and soak up all of the crumbs, then shape into a flat square (easier to roll if using a long rectangular tin like I did), wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  3. In the meantime, move on to the custard. In a saucepan over a medium heat, mix the milk with the vanilla bean paste, then bring to a gentle simmer. In a glass bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, custard powder (or cornstarch/flour). Whisk these ingredients together until the mixture is free of lumps, then remove the milk from the heat and gently pour into the yolk mixture, stirring constantly.
  4. Pour the liquid custard back into the pan and place it over a medium-to-low heat, stirring constantly. Use a balloon whisk or a wooden spoon to judge the consistency of the custard – it is ready when it easily covers the back of a spoon and it has thickened considerably. Pour into a heatproof bowl, cover the surface with clingfilm and allow to cool before putting it into the fridge to set completely.
  5. Back to the pastry. Remove it from the fridge and unwrap it. Dust your surface and rolling pin with some flour, then roll the pastry out to a large rectangle to match the tin (mine is 9.5 x 32cm). Gently lift the pastry and lay it in the fluted tin, pressing it down to make it adhere to the case. Trim the excess pastry with a knife, then go around the edge and gently press the pastry upwards to make it fall into place, keep the fluted edge and make the pastry stretch a little above the edges. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
  6. Once the time has elapsed, preheat the oven to 160°C and place a flat baking sheet on the middle shelf to heat up. Remove the pastry case from the fridge, use a fork to prick the base at regular intervals, then line the inside of the tin with baking parchment and cover with baking beans, pressing them down and ensuring they cover the whole surface evenly. Blind bake the pastry case for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and baking parchment and bake for another 15 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and feels cooked to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  7. To finish the custard, remove it from the fridge. Whip the cream to soft peaks in another bowl, then gently fold it in the custard, mixing well to ensure there are no lumps. Put the mixture back in the fridge until it is time to use it.
  8. To assemble the tart, pour the custard mixture into the pastry case until it fills it completely. Wash the berries, then scatter them on top the way you prefer. Warm the chosen jam in a small saucepan until it becomes liquid, then drizzle it on top. I like to fill any raspberries too. Scatter with the lemon zest and arrange the mint leaves on top. For an extra touch of sweetness, you could also dust the tart with some icing sugar (optional). Enjoy!

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Gruyère, Spinach and Bacon Quiche (with Walnut Pastry)

This is another great summer dish and a creative variation on the ‘quiche’ theme. Sometimes I wish I could just pack a big carrier bag and go on a picnic somewhere sunny. Unfortunately, the weather in this country doesn’t allow me to go very far before pouring rain down on me and, after some sunny spells in the past few weeks, you’ll all be pleased to know the weather is back to being cold and bleak. Just wonderful. That said, even if you can’t organise a picnic somewhere, this shouldn’t prevent you from making this dish from scratch and from enjoying it with a fizzy cocktail, possibly in good company.

Rather than being encased by a traditional shortcrust, this pastry is made up of flour, butter and finely ground walnuts. With that in mind, it helps if you have a strong food processor, as the nuts will need to be pulverized. Please be gentle when you handle it as the pastry is very brittle. After all, nuts are not as sturdy as the combination of butter and flour. I have amended the recipe for the pastry to include a whole egg, but if you prefer you can just use the yolk. Needless to say, if you don’t like bacon or would like to make it a vegetarian dish instead, just leave it out. The filling is rich enough as it is and bacon here only brings saltiness and a bit of texture.

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Ingredients (for the pastry)

  • 350g plain flour
  • 100g shelled walnuts, finely ground
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 200g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp cold water

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 150g bacon lardons
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 300g baby leaf spinach
  • 5 large eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g gruyère, grated
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. To make the pastry, add the flour and salt to the finely ground nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the chilled and cubed butter, then pulse again until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the egg and pulse until the mixture comes together. You might not need to add the water but, if you do, just pulse again afterwards to combine the ingredients.
  2. Tip the pastry out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to make it even. Shape it into a ball, then flatten it into a disc, wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, fry the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and dry on kitchen paper. Add the onions to the frying pan, then cook until translucent. Tumble in the spinach leaves and wilt down, mixing constantly.
  4. Transfer the onion and spinach mixture to a sieve and press gently with a wooden spoon to extract as much juice as possible. leave to drain and occasionally squeeze some more juice out.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  6. Take the pastry out of the oven, then roll it on a lightly floured surface to line a 23cm fluted tart tin. You are looking for a 4mm thickness. Cut the excess off by rolling your pin over the top of the tin, then gently ease the pastry in shape and press it lightly upwards, so that the pastry is slightly taller than the dish. Prick the base with a fork and chill for another 30 minutes.
  7. Line the inside of the pastry case with baking parchment, then fill it with baking beans and blind bake the case for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and the beans, then bake for another 20 minutes until the case is golden and completely dry.
  8. To assemble the tin, spread the spinach and onion mixture on the bottom of the tart case, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. This will ensure any remaining liquid seeping out will be absorbed and won’t give you a soggy bottom. Scatter the bacon lardons on top.
  9. In a jug, combine the eggs with the cream, cheese and some seasoning, then pour over the rest of the filling. Bake for 50 minutes, until golden.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then unmould and serve. Best enjoyed at room temperature or cold.

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