It was only last week when I finally decided what cookery book I wanted to use for this month's challenge: The Art of the Tart by Tamasin Drew-Lewis. We were given this book many years ago by our friend Amy and I have used it once in a while but not that often. It is full of really delicious recipes but the kids are not keen on savoury tarts, quiches and pies so the book has been underused. The book itself is well laid out, the recipes are clear although I prefer a slightly more structured style to the methods of cooking, rather than a narrative. It is easier to zoom into a clearly defined paragraph when you are waving spoons and pans around and generally feel the heat of cooking.
Two of the tarts I made in the past were smoked haddock & water cress tart and spinach & anchovy tart. The first was was delicious, the second not so much. The filling was had no texture and the flavour combination didn't work for me. It tasted a bit like anchovy paste with an afterthought of green.
Making the pastry was easy but it took a whole day. Mind you, all in all I spent less than 20 minutes on it. First I made a rubbed dough with all the flour and a small proportion of butter, and water to combine it all. I'd probably use less water next time than indicated in the recipe, it was too sticky to handle. After the dough has rested for a while, it is rolled out into a rectangle, as is the remaining butter. The butter pad should be about a third of the size. Yes, it is a lot of butter. It is placed in the centre of the dough rectangle and the ends are folded over to seal it in. The assembly is turned a quarter clockwise, rolled out to the original size, folded into thirds again. This is repeated twice more before it is placed in the fridge for another rest. The entire turning/rolling/folding process as just described is repeated twice more before the puff pastry is ready. I wasn't really that bothered what to use the puff pastry for, I just wanted to make it. Since a dinner was required, I made a potato, garlic & parsley tourte with the pastry. I lined a reasonably sized dish with half the pastry and filled it with a mix of very finely sliced potatoes, lots of finely chopped garlic and parsley and seasoning. Then I place our vintage pie funnel in the middle and closed it all with the other half of the puff. The tourte is baked for 50 minutes, then a vulgar amount of double cream is poured through the pie funnel (this was rather tricky, I couldn't find my small necked funnel). After another 10 minutes in the oven, it was ready to eat. Richard and I loved it. The kids not so much. I hope you don't mind me saying so but my puff pastry was far better than any of the puffs I have ever bought. I also loved the creamy, garlicky potato gratin. I'll make this again for a more appreciative audience.
My second recipe was a lemon meringue tart. I rarely make pudding, I have never made lemon curd and I tend to overwork my short crust pastry so it was a challenging recipe for a Sunday afternoon. This particular lemon curd is made with egg yolks only, the whites are used for the meringue. I followed the recipe to the dot and it turned out well. The pastry is blind baked first. I am not convinced blind baking is great or even necessary. The tart bottom was not baked to my satisfaction and it was a bit soggy despite sealing of the the blind baked crust with egg white. I made other tarts without blind baking and with runny fillings. The result was invariably better. I noticed that my Swiss recipe book bakes all tarts at a highish heat in the bottom half of the oven. This is what I usually do and this is what I'll do with my lemon meringue tart next time. Should have gone with my instinct. Apart from the slightly soggy bottom, it was absolutely delicious. The lemon meringue tart had high approval ratings by all and there wasn't a crumb left. This particular recipe balances the acidity of the curd and the sweetness of the meringue very well. I love it when the palate almost shudders a little when the acidity hits it!
Have you made puff pastry before? I highly recommend it, if you can fit it in your day, maybe on a slow rainy weekend day. It is a perfect activity to stretch your legs in between reading a book and loafing on the sofa.
As every month, I am linking up with Penny at the Homemade Heart. It is a pleasure to do so and I am glad to have the opportunity to share my kitchen stories on her blog.
Have a lovely week! xx