About a month ago we were watching an episode of Food Unwrapped where they investigated the benefit of prunes in keeping you… ahem, ‘regular’.
The presenters did a little compare & contrast experiment where, each day, one of them drank a glass of prune juice, another ate a couple of plums and the third ate a few prunes. The last proved to be by far the most effective way of upping your fibre intake.
The programme took a trip to Agen in France which apparently produces the best prunes in the world. That was it, I was straight online to order myself a bag of Agen prunes.
They didn’t lie, Agen prunes put all other prunes in the shade when it comes to taste and size. I’ve begun eating 3 prunes each morning and I can attest that the workings of my alimentary canal are markedly smoother than previously!
I searched through all my cookery books looking for a tempting recipe to try so as to mix my prune intake up a little. Eventually, I came across a prune and almond tart with Armagnac in Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. I don’t think I’ve not previously posted any of his recipes despite the fact that we love a lot of the food he makes.
We’re not big brandy drinkers and I couldn’t find anywhere that sold miniatures, but decided to invest in a bottle of Armagnac for this and future recipes – it’s often called for in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Stein’s instruction is to soak the prunes for an hour prior to using them. However, I think a more extensive soak (overnight / 8 hours or so) would improve matters.
Not that the tart wasn’t incredibly good anyway – believe me, it was! Pairing it with a dollop of crème fraîche really works too.
- 225g/8oz plain flour, sifted
- ½tsp salt
- 130g/4½oz butter, chilled & diced
- 1½-2tbs cold water
- 300g/10½oz mi-cuit (semi-dried) Agen prunes, stoned
- 4tbs Armagnac
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 35g/1¼oz ground almonds
- 55g/2oz caster sugar
- 200ml/7fl oz crème fraîche
- icing sugar (for dusting)
- additional crème fraîche (for serving)
- Put the prunes into a bowl with the Armagnac and leave to soak for at least an hour, turning them occasionally to help them absorb the alcohol
- Put the flour and salt in a food processor or mixing bowl. Add the butter and work together to the fine breadcrumb stage
- Stir in the water with a round-bladed knife until it comes together into a ball
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed briefly until smooth
- Rest the pastry in a fridge for about 30 minutes before using
- Roll out the pastry and use it to line a greased, loose-bottomed flan tin (2½ cm deep, 24cm diameter)
- Prick the base all over and chill for 20 minutes
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes then remove the blind baking gubbins and bake the case for a further 5 minutes
- Set the case aside and reduce the oven temperature to 190°C/ºF/Gas mark 5
- Drain the prunes over a bowl to reserve the remaining Armagnac
- Add the ground almonds, egg, sugar and crème fraîche to the Armagnac then beat together until smooth
- Distribute the prunes over the base of the pastry case and pour over the almond mixture
- Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes away clean
- Allow the tart to cool before dusting with a little icing sugar
- Serve with additional crème fraîche
I had a bit of leftover lemon curd from last week’s Pavlova recipe… I also have jar upon jar of home-made fruit jelly in the store cupboard. As someone who hates to waste anything, I thought I would make some simple lemon curd and jelly tarts.
Whether you’re rubbing in by hand or using a food mixer, the shortcrust pastry is a breeze…
…then fill with your preserve(s) of choice and bake. Start to finish in an hour or so. Perfect if you want to rustle up something quickly – or try a bit of baking with the kids.
You can leave them plain & simple – or perhaps pretty them up a bit. I garnished the top of the lemon curd tarts with a single blueberry and the jelly ones with a little sprinkle of dessicated coconut.
They’re a good finger food for a party or an afternoon or high tea. They’re simple, inexpensive and delicious – a great combination!
- 180g/6oz plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 90g/3oz cold butter, cubed
- 3-4 tbsp cold water
- 8tbsp lemon curd
- 8tbsp fruit jelly or jam
- Put the flour and salt into a food processor and whiz briefly together to mix
- Add the butter cubes and pulse briefly a dozen times or so until you have coarse crumbs
- Trickle in the water continuing to pulse until the mixture resembles rough lumps and looks a bit like overcooked and dry scrambled eggs. Add only as much water as you need
- Tip the clumped crumbs onto a sheet of cling film and gently squeeze together into a ball without pressing too hard
- Wrap & chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 6
- Lightly grease a tartlet tin
- On a lightly floured work surface, roll the pastry out thinly
- Using a pastry cutter slightly larger than the circumference of a tartlet hole, cut out pastry rounds
- Press the pastry rounds evenly into each hole (I use the end of my rolling pin as a tamper)
- Fill each pastry case with about a teaspoon of lemon curd or jelly/jam
- Bake for 15 minutes
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin before attempting to remove them
- Allow them to cool completely on a wire rack
One of the things that Todmorden is famous for is Incredible Edible, a group of local people who have started something of a revolution, growing food in public places in & around the town centre.
There are vegetables outside the police station and local community college, herbs along the canal tow-path and in the train station and an apothecary garden in the grounds of the health centre.
Everything is free for anyone to come along and help themselves – or even do a little weeding and clearing if the fancy takes them!
The train station is on one of our daily dog-walking routes and it’s been lovely watching the progress of the peas, red onions, chives and the like.
This week, along with the dog, I left the house with a pair of scissors and a carrier bag and cut a few stems of rhubarb – to use in a rhubarb and custard tart.
Rhubarb & custard is a classic British combination as is baked custard tart. I’ve put them together and come up with a delicious dessert.
I used the same pastry recipe as last week’s pear tart and made sure to add a tad more sugar than normal to the custard recipe… and a tablespoonful of Bird’s Custard Powder.
The sweetness of the custard and the tartness of the rhubarb worked incredibly well – I’ll be making this one again before the end of the rhubarb season.
It takes quite a few stages to make this French pear tart but it’s well worth the time and effort. If you don’t think you’ll have the time all in one day to do it, you can prepare most of it well in advance and bring it all together on the day you plan to bake & serve it.
You can whiz up the pastry, press it into the tart tin and freeze it… weeks in advance.
I must admit, it has got to be – by a country mile – the most delicious pastry I’ve ever made!
You can cut corners (and time) by using tinned pears or simply omitting the poaching stage if using fresh fruit.
The almond cream can be made a couple of days before and left covered & chilled in the fridge until just before it’s due to be put in the oven.
My rectangular tart tin is so large that I had to double up the almond cream recipe and cut the pears into quarters rather than halves.
The resulting tart is very attractive (not to mention photogenic!) and can be cut so each person gets a neat slice of pear.
It’s moist and sweet – sweet enough to serve with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche or thick Greek yoghurt on the side.
The perfect bake for a dinner party or daily treat.
I bought myself a brand new, fluted loose-bottomed tart tin this week and couldn’t wait to use it!
I decided to make a spinach, cheese & onion tart from a recipe that I tore out of a Telegraph magazine a few weeks ago.
A couple of spoonfuls of English mustard adds a nice piquancy and depth of flavour.
We got six, good portions from the tart which can be eaten either hot or cold.
It’s perfect for a light lunch with a few salad leaves – and can be made well in advance if you’ve got guests coming and don’t want any last-minute stress.
We had it the following night as more substantial evening meal pairing it with paprika-salted potato skins and mixed salad.
There are all kinds of flavour variations possible using this basic method – bacon, chorizo, smoked salmon, goat’s cheese, mushroom…
Very delicious and very versatile.
We have some friends that live nearby who are having their kitchen renovated. For the next few weeks, all they’ll have to cook on is a single-burner camping stove.
We’ve been in the exact same position in the past – it’s such a drag! We invited them round to ours for dinner tonight so we thought we’d cook them something that they can’t currently make at home.
Justin’s making the main course – chicken breasts filled with a fennel, pastrami and chicken mousse with a spinach and pine nut lasagne – and I’m making the dessert.
In keeping with the loosely Mediterranean theme, I’ve cooked a honey-roasted fig & marzipan tart. You can buy ready-made shortcrust pastry to make the base, but it’s really easy to make yourself at home – a 2-minute job… honest!
I’ve not made this tart before – I hope it’s a hit tonight!