By the time you read this, I will be on holiday. In fact, I will be nearly back from holiday. Back, I hope, to crunchy leaves and high-tog duvets and tights fresh from the packet. I’m ready for crumbles and shepherds pies and soups thick with lentils. And mashed potato. I’m ready to eat a lot of mashed potato.
But as I write this we’re enduring yet another heat wave, and despite my absolute best intentions, this late tide of humidity makes it almost impossible to enjoy mashed potato. And categorically impossible to enjoy mashing potato. I roasted a chicken on Monday night, which was completely glorious for about twenty minutes, and then torture as the house refused to cool down for the following three hours.
So following some very ostentatious blackberry hunting and preserving last week, and making grand declarations about declaring Autumn open, I’m being forced to eat my words, or not eat them, as the case may be. I’ve been forced to admit that steaming a pudding or making a cobbler is going to be entirely masochistic for at least another couple of weeks.
So here is my last hurrah to summer, in the shape of a strawberry and pistachio tartlet. It’s sweet and light, with ripe, soft fruit, and mellow, pale green custard, speckled with tiny chunks of nut. The pistachio pastry is crisp and short, and the smell as it bakes is one of the loveliest things I’m smelt in months.
Let me be upfront with you: this recipe requires blanched and peeled pistachios, which are not difficult, but are time consuming. As long as you’re aware of it, and that they’ll take you about thirty minutes’ mindless preparation (I do mine in front of Bake Off), they’re not a problem at all. You can also now buy either pre-blanched and peeled pistachios or ready made pistachio paste, but I’m a cheapskate and do my own.
I used Quick Gel to glaze the tarts, but a word of caution: it will make your pastry soggy if if it is left in contact with it for two long, so only use it if you’re going to eat the tartlets within half an hour; if not leave it out, the tart will still be completely beautiful.
It goes like this:
Strawberry and Pistachio Tartlets
Makes: 6 individual tartlets
Takes: 2 hours
Bakes: 25 minutes
For the pastry:
1 teaspoon of salt
40g Icing Sugar
20g pistachios, chopped very finely
1 egg yolk
For the pistachio paste:
1 tablespoon caster sugar
For the custard:
1 large egg
2 egg yolks
250 ml whole milk
70g caster sugar
1 sachet of ‘quick-gel’ (optional)
1. First make the pastry: rub the butter into the flour, then add the salt, icing sugar, and pistachios. Add the egg yolk, and combine into a dough. You may need to add a teaspoon of very cold water. Knead briefly until the dough smooths, then wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for half an hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 190°C. If you are blanching and peeling your own pistachios, briefly soak the pistachios in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain and rub the nuts with a tea towel until the skins come away. Toast in the oven for ten minutes, shuffling now and again, and keeping an eagle eye on them to make sure they don’t catch. Allow to cool.
3. Divide the dough into six, and roll each out to the thickness of a pound coin, and drape over the tart tins. Using a little extra bit of dough, push the pastry into the corners of the tins. Prick with a fork, then cover with clingfilm and fill the case with baking beads. Bake for fifteen minutes, then remove the clingfilm and beads, and bake for another ten minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Set aside to cool.
4. Whilst the pastry is cooling, make the creme patissiere: place the milk in a pan over a meidum heat and bring up just to the point of boil. Whisk the sugar and eggs together until pale and foamy, then whisk the cornflour in well. Pour a little of the hot milk onto the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly, then slowly add the rest of the milk. Return to the pan and heat, constantly stirring, until thick, then remove it from the heat.
5. Blitz the pistachios is a food processor with the icing sugar until it forms a thick paste. Fold this through the custard, and then allow it to cool completely in the fridge.
6. Pipe or spoon in a thick layer of the pistachio custard into the empty pastry shells, then arrange ths strawberries whole or sliced as you wish.
7. If you’re eating the tarts within half an hour, you can glaze with Quick Gel. Follow the packet instructions, and then paint onto the strawberries, avoiding the pastry as much as possible. Allow to set, then eat straight away. If you’re not eating immediately, the tarts will be fine for a day or so in the fridge.
8. Ta Dah!
Icing on the Cake
These don’t need any adornment, and we ate them just as they are (and Sam even ate the slightly soggy spare ones later on, and declared them delicious, but I think he’d just eat anything).