We are ‘pudding’ rather than ‘starter’ people and always have a sweet ending to our daily evening meal.
Sometimes, I’ve got to the day and haven’t had the time to make a dessert. At times like this, there are a few quick sweet dishes that can be rustled up in about half an hour. One such is jam and coconut slice which is one of Justin’s favourites from his childhood – and also great for using up pastry scraps.
Another is an apple and raisin puff pastry tart – using a sheet of ready-made puff pastry, of course.
All it takes is a couple of cooking apples – peeled, cored and chopped; a handful of raisins (pre-soaking them for an hour makes them more juicy and adds another layer of flavour – strong tea, brandy or armagnac perhaps – so recommended but not a necessity if your in a rush); a pinch of ground spice and aforementioned packet of puff pastry.
Delicious served with cream, creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.
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.
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!
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.