Saturday, 31 August 2013

Beautiful Fruit Tart

Last weekend marked the 1st anniversary of my niece's funeral. Unfortunately I never had the chance to meet her, but through her parents and twin sister I have heard lots of wonderful stories about how special she was during her short time with us.

My Sister-In-Law has started a new family tradition of having a BBQ to mark the day, so I needed to make a very special dessert for this very special occasion.

I'll be honest, I think I'm quite a good cook... desserts however are my weak spot. My favourite summer dessert has always been a fruit tart, piled high with fresh fruit sitting on a creamy sweet pillow of creme patissiere. I've always been too scared to make it. In fact I've always been too scared to make pastry or any kind of custard.

I'm not sure why I came up with the idea of making what I thought would be such a high stress dessert, for such a special occasion, but I think it was my way of showing that I care. Fortunately it turned out to be pretty easy and (even if I do say so myself) it was the best fruit tart I have ever eaten, even when served a day later following a 3 hour car journey. I just wish I'd made two so I could have had more.

I pinched the recipe from, but I've made some changes because I'm lazy. They also have a video you can watch, but I prefer reading instructions. I like the way they've split the recipe into different parts, so I'm going to stick to that as it's really helpful.

Sweet Pastry (can be made the day before)

200g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g sugar (caster or granulated)
110g unsalted butter (softened)
1 egg

1. Whizz butter and sugar with together until fluffy (if better equipped than I am use a electric mixer, I used a handheld whisk).
2. Beat in the egg until it is just incorperated.
3. Add the flour and salt and mix until it forms a bowl - don't be tempted to over mix!
4. Flour a surface, roll it into a ball and then squish it into a disk. At this point mine was a bit cracked in places but this didn't matter.
5. Cover with cling film and pop into the fridge for 30 mins.
6. Butter and flour a tart tin. The recipe recommends 20-23cm. I used a 25cm tin and it worked just fine.
7. Use your fingers to push the pastry into the tin and up the edges nice and evenly. (I imagine that you could roll it out, but this was so simple).
8. Cover with cling film again and pop into the fridge for another 30 mins. You can use this time to heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
9. Remove cling film and prick the bottom of the case with a fork lots of times.
10. Bake tart crust for 5 mins at 200 degrees C and then a further 10-15 mins at 180 degrees C until golden brown. You don't need to use baking beans or anything like that.
11. Cool completely before filling

Creme Patissiere (can be made 2-3 days before)

300ml semi-skimmed milk
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
50g granulated or caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
3 large egg yolks
20g plain flour
20g corn flour

1. In a heatproof bowl mix the sugar and egg yolks.
2. Add plain flour and corn flour to mixture until you get a smooth paste.
3. Heat milk and vanilla pod until they just start to foam & remove from heat. Add this slowly to the egg, sugar and flour paste while stirring constantly (best done with a glamorous assistant). It will thicken up quickly so keep whisking, but shouldn't curdle. 
4. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape out seeds into mix or add vanilla extract.
5. Pour the whole thing back into the saucepan and cook until boiling mixing constantly. Keep mixing and cooking for a further minute. It will get quite thick. 
6. Store in a clean bowl covered with cling film to stop a skin forming. Cool to use, this can be stored in a fridge for a few days.

Fruit Tart

1 x tart crust as above
1 x quantity of creme patissiere as above
All the fruits you fancy (If you're making this for my Dad remember, no Kiwis!)
Apricot jam

1. Melt apricot jam in a pan.
2. Glaze inside of tart crust with apricot jam to avoid a soggy bottom.
3. Pile in creme patissiere.
4. Slice fruit how you want it and arrange artfully on top.
5. Glaze with more apricot jam (do this very quickly if any of the fruit is likely to discolour).
6. Allow glaze to set.
7. Share the yummy tart with lots of loved ones (or eat it all yourself!).

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Say Hello To My Little Friend...

Finally after years of waiting I have a pet cat.

Non-cat lovers won't understand this at all, but it's something that I've wanted for so long. When we grew up we had 2 lovely cats. One we got when I was a toddler and the other we got when I was 12. Unfortunately because of unforeseen family things and changes in circumstance we went to live in my Dad's hotel on my 16th birthday and that is when our cats went to live with a family friend, so for the last 10 years I have been catless.

Obviously we couldn't keep cats in a hotel, then I spent 6 years at university frequently spending 3 months at a time on placement away from my flat. The last 2 years I have moved around a lot for work and lived in rented flats with (lovely but) random flatmates, as well as a stint back at home.

Now that I've finally settled down a bit, I know what part of the country I'll be working in for at least the next 8 years I thought it was time to get something cute, furry and loveable back in my life.

So I'd like to introduce you all to Inara (bonus points for anyone who is geek enough to know where the name is from).

I know I'm biased but I think that she is the most beautiful kitten in the world. Unlike me she is remarkably chilled out and settled in instantly. She has managed to wrap hubby around her little paw quicker than I ever could. In fact not only did he carry her into bed every night for the first week but he even spent hours feeding her cat milk out of a syringe when she was dehydrated, getting all covered in dribbles of cat milk!

She was also the first of the 3 of us to get a parcel delivered to the new flat. What a lucky girl.

I realise that I've turned into the mad-cat lady equivalent of a boring parent so I won't show you the other 300 pictures...

Moving House

So finally, a month after last posting, I'm back. I have a (kind of) genuine excuse for my long absence. Moving house. Okay, I know it doesn't take a whole month to move house but all the associated bits (and the little holiday too) take ages. In fact it took over 2 weeks to get our internet working and then the laptop decided to die.

Fortunately for me my hubby is tech-savy and seems to have got it up and running again.

I'm loving the new flat we have moved into. Big windows, laminate flooring, open plan kitchen/living room and best of all we're allowed a cat! It's also good because we're now only 40 minutes from London.

 This makes up for the days of lugging boxes up and down 2 flights of stairs and the rather impressive bruises all over my arms, legs and tummy. I always forget how awful moving house is (even though I seem to move on a yearly basis). Luckily we got all of our deposit back from our last flat, so I feel that the hours spent scrubbing the kitchen have paid back. I even managed to clean the oven without sustaining any chemical burns. A real achievement for someone as clumsy and disaster prone as I am.

Unfortunately my boundless procrastination has meant that even though I'm off work until next week, I haven't finished unpacking the boxes or sorting out the new Ikea furniture. I know. I'm a lazy-bones. I think I just work better under time pressure.

Most of my procrastination so far this week has been in the form of stressing about my new job. It's first day at school syndrome. I'm worried that I won't be good enough and that no-one will want to be my friend. I'm also really stressing out about getting study leave for the part time MSc I am doing. The rota is really tight and I need to try to swap a whole bunch of on calls. In fact I'm so stressed that last night I had nightmares that I was being arrested for writing abbreviations in my notes!

Now that the interwebs is up and running I promise some more frequent (and hopefully more interesting posts)!