egg custard tart

IMG_2188Hand on heart, it is honestly no exaggeration to say that this custard tart has driven me to despair. For weeks I’ve been trying to achieve well baked custard, perfectly seasoned with nutmeg, encased by buttery shortcrust pastry. Many methods, recipes, ingredients, and even baking dishes have been used, and AT LAST: success. I’m not sure if egg custard tart is technically difficult to complete, but I hope that if anyone else has ever similarly struggled, this recipe will give you a disaster-free, fool-proof custard tart.

When Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood set the tart as a challenge on Great British Bake Off, my dad (who swears/lies that he ‘never watches that show’ when in company) said he had fond childhood memories of it being baked by his mum, and devoured by him and his siblings. So I thought I’d make one. It was terrible (the recipe for sweet pastry came out like a cake batter; then like a half burnt flan) and initiated a series of crippling self doubts; an existential crisis unfolded in the kitchen, leading me to bake two more tarts that day, both of which were failures. With no eggs left, I did the honourable IMG_2029thing: turn to beer and call it a day.

Not to be defeated, the next week I tried again [right]. Mixed results: individual components were fine; together, a disaster. The pastry was too thin – it split in the oven, the custard leaked out, dripped onto the tray and onto the oven, leaving a blackened custard and the smell of charred eggy nutmeg. A similar dearth of eggs, and now a depleted alcohol supply.

Growing desperate, I called my granny and asked how she made it. What could be better than to revive the actual recipe that my dad had fond memories of? The one thing she said to do was “watch it – if it’s in there too long, it’ll come out watery and ruined”. I’m pretty sure I was watching it, but it all happened so fast and before I knew it, a watery shiny substance had flooded the pastry case. Broken, I decided to give custard tarts a rest for a while.

But finally. Finally, nearly a month after that episode of Great British Bake Off aired, I have successfully made an egg custard tart. The only problem is, I don’t really like dairy and I don’t have a sweet tooth, so…I’m not sure if it’s for me.

Ingredients

  • 75g butter or margarine
  • 150g plain flour
  • Cold water, as necessary
  • 400ml whole milkIMG_2193
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 51g caster sugar
  • ½ clove of fresh nutmeg, grated finely

Method

  1. Rub the flour and butter together until fine breadcrumbs form. Add tiny amounts of water gradually, just enough to bring it together as a pastry dough. Cover with clingfilm, and chill in the fridge.
  2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. Roll out the pastry 2cm wider than the pastry dish, and line the case, leaving the 2cm extra to hang over the side. Place baking beans in the pastry and blind bake for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, remove the baking beans and place the pastry back in the oven to cook through fully for a further 10 minutes.
  5. Heat the milk over a low heat until it just comes to the boil. Grate in nutmeg and stir.
  6. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl, until pale and fluffy. Remove the milk from the heat, and add to the egg yolks, whisking all the time.
  7. Leave the custard to stand, removing any froth from the top with a spoon.
  8. Take the pastry case out of the oven, and fill with the custard. Grate more nutmeg over the top, and put into the oven for 20 minutes.
  9. The custard should dome slightly, and bounce back when touched. It should have some movement, but not be jelly-like. Leave the custard tart to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
  10. After this time, cut the excess pastry from around the rim of the dish to give an even crust. Remove the custard tart from the tin, and serve.
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leek and cannellini bean pie

Inspired by the turkey leftovers pie, I decided to embark on creating a vegetarian equivalent. The way the leeks were prepared in Jamie Oliver’s pie was fantastic. Rather than blanched, the leeks were sauteed in a little olive oil over the course of half an hour, DSCF7035to draw out both their moisture and flavour. Using this little piece of Jamie-wisdom, you get very tender, and very tasty, leeks! So all I needed was a turkey replacement. An obvious choice was Quorn, or another meat substitute. But claiming to develop a recipe to make it veggie-friendly, I couldn’t help feeling that using vegetarian “turkey” pieces was a little bit like cheating!

So instead, I turned to beans.

Ingredients, serves 1.

  • ½ leek, finely sliced
  • ½ 400g tin cannellini beans, rinsed
  • Dried chili flakes
  • Clove of garlic
  • Vegetable stock cube
  • Enough hot water to make a sauce, roughly 4-5 tablespoons
  • Dried parsley
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Cold water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil. Add the finely sliced leeks; reduce the heat to low, and sauté for 25-30 minutes. Ensure that you stir them regularly – although the moisture from the vegetables will come out, it is important to make sure that they do not burn to the bottom of the pan!
  3. Whilst the leeks are cooking, make the pastry. Place the flour and the butter in a bowl. With cold hands, using only your fingertips, gently rub the two ingredients together, until they resemble ‘breadcrumbs’. Do this gently and lightly – with each ‘rub’, lift the flour and butter a little out of the bowl to introduce air.
  4. Once breadcrumbs are achieved, add small amounts of cold water and stir in until a ball is formed. Wrap this in clingfilm or silver foil, and place aside in the fridge until later.DSCF7033
  5. Add the sliced garlic to the leeks, and fry until the garlic begins to emit an aroma. Crumble in a vegetable stock cube, and stir to coat the leeks and garlic. Add the cannellini beans, and stir.
  6. Gradually pour in tablespoons of boiling water, making a sauce. This should not be too runny, but should be enough to bind the ingredients together. The cannellini beans should sit comfortably in the sauce, but should not be fully submerged.
  7. Add the chili flakes and parsley to taste, and remove from the heat. Transfer the pie filling into a pie dish. Roll out the pastry and tuck over the pie filling, then brush with milk and score.
  8. Place in the oven, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden.

 

turkey leftovers pie

Not everyone is in love with the favoured Christmas turkey. There are those who cannot fathom what the fuss is about at all, and opt for a Christmas beef or gammon joint, bravely straying from tradition! But most people, like myself, are happy to eat it that one day. It’s Christmas, and turkey is the something that makes dinner different from any other, the something that makes it special. It only happens once year, let’s make an effort here! But as much as we’re content to eat it on December 25th, with mounds of crispy potatoes and little sausages wrapped up in bacon, by December 26th, personally I’m done with the novelty.

photoEvery year the days following Christmas are interesting to say the least, as my favourite childhood meals have been changed not-for-the-better with unwelcome surprise appearances from turkey. This year, rather than enduring such a dish simply to reduce the amount of leftovers in the fridge, I tried to find a recipe that I thought I might like! And this was once such recipe – Jamie Oliver’s turkey and sweet leek pie. I didn’t quite have all of the ingredients, so I played about with quantities. It’s a fantastic pie: after softening leeks to tease out their moisture and flavour, the turkey is added, before stock. After simmering it away to give tenderness back to the turkey, it’s strained through a sieve, producing a brilliant creamy homemade gravy separate from the pie filling. And stuffed pastry! I made my own shortcrust rather than puff, and stuffed it with chopped mushrooms over chestnuts, but it was inspired wholly by Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Who knew leftover turkey could be such a treat. It’ll definitely be making an appearance again next year…

Ingredients – serves 4, my modifications in bold. 

  • 2 rashers smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
  • Dried thyme
  • Olive oil
  • 3 leeks, washed, trimmed; white end chopped into thin slices
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooked leftover turkey, shredded (either white or dark meat, or both!)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of plain flour, for the gravy
  • 1 pint of vegetable stock
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of natural Greek yoghurt
  • 100g mushrooms, finely chopped
  • Butter, half the amount of plain flour used 
  • Plain flour, for the pastry, double the amount of butter used 
  • Cold water, as necessary, to bind together the butter and flour 
  • Dried sage
  • Splash of cold milk

Method

  1. In a large pan that has an accompanying lid (I used a wok), over a medium heat, add dried thyme. Toast the dried herbs until they become aromatic, and then add the sliced bacon. Add a little olive oil, and fry for a few minutes. Add the finely sliced leeks, and fry them for about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Season, then add the lid, turn the heat down to low and let them fry gently for 25-30 minutes. The moisture in the leeks will come out, but make sure you stir them regularly to prevent them sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Whilst the leeks are cooking, make your shortcrust pastry. Placing the flour and the butter in a bowl with cold hands. Using only your fingertips, gently rub the two photo-1ingredients together, until they resemble ‘breadcrumbs’. Do this gently and lightly – with each ‘rub’, lift the flour and butter a little out of the bowl to introduce air. Once breadcrumbs are achieved, add small amounts of cold water and stir in until a ball is formed. Wrap this in clingfilm or silver foil, and place aside in the fridge until later.
  4. When the leeks are done, add the shredded turkey and stir. Scatter over the flour, mix it well to coat all the ingredients, then pour in the vegetable stock and stir again.
  5. Add the natural Greek yoghurt, and then bring everything to the boil. Season to taste, then remove from the heat.
  6. Pour the mixture through a sieve or colander over another large empty pan; let the gravy from the mixture drip into the pan while you roll out your pastry.
  7. Get a deep pie dish roughly 22 x 30cm. Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with a bit of flour and roll your pastry out so it’s double the size of your dish.
  8. Crumble the chopped mushrooms over one half of the pastry then sprinkle over some dried sage. Fold the other half of pastry on top then roll it out carefully and evenly so it’s the same size as the pie dish. The mushrooms will poke through the surface and you may need a bit more flour, as they will release moisture, making the pastry catch a little on the surface.
  9. Spoon the leek mixture from the sieve into the pie dish and spread it out evenly. Lay your pastry on top, and tuck it down the sides of the dish. Score with a large, sharp knife.
  10. Wash the top of the pastry with milk, and season. Place your pie in the oven for 40 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
  11. When the pie is ready, re-heat the gravy and serve with your pie, along with some fresh green vegetables. Enjoy!

recipe by Jamie Oliver.