This is a delicious tart that could be served up any time of year. It’s an idea that came to me when I was trying to think how I could use a bowlful of fresh raspberries and a packet of feuillettée (puff) pastry from the fridge. Although I always make my own shortcrust pastry, having puff pastry to hand means I can always put something together quickly. My favourites are a simple fruit topping on a base of crême fraiche and an egg whisked together with a little sugar and maybe some spice if it’s apple. Alternatively, I make savoury parcels for dinner with a piece of salmon and some spinach, or simply vegetables in a creamy sauce. Today, I thought about making a kind of Bakewell Tart using fresh fruit instead of jam but putting the fruit on the top. The result is a gloriously light and colourful dessert which can be served warm or cold and it really doesn’t need anything else other than a glass of chilled white wine.
100g caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100g ground almonds
fresh raspberries, (cherries or blackcurrants would do equally well)
some flaked almonds
icing sugar (optional)
Remove the pastry from the fridge and leave to one side to soften. Beat together the margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs a little at a time keeping back a small amount to brush onto the pastry. Gently fold in the ground almonds.
Unroll the pastry onto a large shallow flan tin with a loose bottom. Spread the almond mixture over the base but not going right to the edge. Put the fruit on top, more or less covering the surface and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Taking the edge of the pastry between your fingers, lightly roll it inwards over the edge of the almond mix and brush the folds with the remaining egg. Bake for 30-35mins at 180C until the filling is golden brown. Sift icing sugar over the flan just before serving.
My young pea plants were practically grabbing me round the ankles as I walked past. So yesterday evening we wandered into the woods to a recently coppiced area where I knew I could find what I needed. In a previous life, I used to coppice woodland for conservation and had already admired the neat stacks of logs and the long rows of brushwood. It was amongst the brushwood that I found just what I was looking for. I sorted out some twiggy pieces of oak into a couple of bundles and tied the stems together with rafia so we could carry them home.
Thanks to a gift of more than a dozen tomato plants last week, the garden chez nous is now pretty well full. I could squeeze in a row or two of something else where the carrots have failed to germinate, maybe some late spinach or a few radish, but I think I’ll wait for rain. The mixed lettuce are already providing more than we can eat, and I’ve had two mini-cucumbers which are quite fun and just enough to add to the salad bowl.
My favourite of all fruit is the raspberry. Earlier this year we spent a couple of hours sorting out the raspberry canes which had strayed way beyond their allotted place and with neglect on my part, had become more of a bed of nettles and bramble than a raspberry patch. Mulching the base of the row with grass clippings (yes, we did cut the grass a few times before the drought) as advised in a lovely old book on growing fruit by Geoff Hamilton has really paid off by suppressing the weeds and keeping the base from drying out. OK, the berries are a little small but the taste is wonderful and I love hunting along the row for those dark jewels of fruit. I love eating them fresh but they are very easy to freeze. Spread out flat on a plate or tray until frozen, then transfer to a freezer bag and take them out by the handful as a topping for meringues or rich chocolate dessert or to add to an apple crumble.
I nearly always have one or two types of cake on the go, just for something sweet after lunch or with our mid-afternoon cuppa. Working from home it’s nice to have a small treat to loook forward to and it’s healthier and more satisfying than shop bought cakes and biscuits.
Here’s a cake recipe which I originally found in a BBC food magazine, perhaps the vegetarian one but I can’t remember. The page was torn out and filed along with other favourites in an ever expanding collection. I love it, partly because it only makes one pan and a spoon dirty, and if you line the cake tin with greaseproof paper, you don’t even have to wash that either. But I mainly like it because it’s a lovely moist cake, you can vary the ingredients and keeps quite happily for a week in an airtight container.
Mixed Fruit Teabread
125g butter, cubed
175g mixed dried fruit
175g golden caster sugar
225g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Line a bread tin with greaseproof paper and heat the oven to 180°C.
In a saucepan, put the butter, sugar, dried fruit and milk and heat gently stirring regularly until the butter is melted. Don’t heat it up too much as you have to allow the mixture to cool before adding the dry ingredients.
Beat in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the egg until the mixture is smooth. The mixture should be quite slack but if it’s too wet add a little more flour or the fruit will sink to the bottom of the cake. Pour the mix into the tin and bake for one hour in the centre of the oven. (If you’re a cake mixture licker like me this one is especially good!)
Test whether the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the cake – if it comes out clean then it’s done.
Variations include adding 125g chopped apricots with 50g of roasted and chopped hazlenuts instead of the dried fruit. This is delicious and is a great way to use the cob nuts we harvest from the tree in the garden. I’ve also made it with sultanas and the grated rind and juice of a lemon – a much more summery flavour. I’ve found this can be too runny with the extra liquid so you could try reducing the milk slightly and adding a little more flour.