I’m afraid my blog has been somewhat neglected over the past week or two. First it was jam making that took my attention, then a visit from friends over from France, the teens end of term shenanigans and a visit from granny. The week was rounded off with some ‘proper’ work (two days of non-food related teaching to prepare for next week). Wearing so many hats is a tiring business!!
Finally, I have reclaimed my computer (from the teen and my mother) finished my teaching presentation and now I can get back to the thing I do best, talking and cooking food.
Busy or not I gain great pleasure from playing host and sharing good food with good friends. We started the week with a scorching barbecue at another friends house. Bloody Mary burgers (a la Hugh FW) with creamy horseradish, mackerel caught on the Saturday with lime and herbs and chicken and maple kebabs. I made a box of lavish cupcakes for the kids, of which there were many, but they almost had to go to war with the adults to get a look in.
Two days later it was back to mine for lunch. There are times when I really don’t want to slave over a hot stove, especially on a lovely sunny day, so on this occasion I wanted to keep things simple. With a tired 18 month old and a new baby in the house, quick was definitely best. Not just that, but neither did I wish to be chained to the kitchen when I really wanted to spend as much time as possible holding the baby!! In fact the last thing any of us needed was a long drawn out lunch, particularly our friends as they had so many people to catch up with.
I opted for a couple of hearty salads, two tarts and an easy but decadent pudding of chopped strawberries, macerated with a few glugs of home-made loganberry vodka and a tablespoon of caster sugar, which have been left for at least an hour and served with a good dollop of thick double cream.
These offered the perfect solution; filling, yet light; simple, but full of delicious flavour. I prepared the tarts the night before, which made things even easier.
For the fillings I used ricotta, Isle of Wight tomatoes and fresh basil from my veg box and for the other with smoked bacon, chorizo and Dragon Caerphilly cheese. Both were as good the next day and all I had to do on the day was warm them quickly in the oven. The salads assembled in no time, which left me free to chat and cluck and coo over the beautiful Alexia (even better I could give her back at the end!!)
For two 7 inch tarts I used 150g plain flour and 50g spelt flour (which I like using because it makes a nice crisp case) sifted with a good pinch of salt. I then rubbed in 100g butter, mixing to a loose dough with some ice-cold water. Wrapping it in cling film, it was then placed in the fridge to rest for half an hour.
I then lined two tart tins with pastry, cut two circles of greaseproof paper just larger than the tins and placed them on top of the pastry and filled the tins with baking beans. It’s not essential to buy packs of special beans, mine are simply a mixture of dried pulses, rice and a lentils, now baked a hundred times!! Bake for about ten minutes on 200 degree, then remove the paper and beans and cook for another 10 minutes until set and beginning to brown slightly. Allow to cool a little while you make or prepare the fillings.
For the bacon and chorizo tart I fried a few rashers of chopped bacon and half a mild chorizo (skin removed) in a little olive oil. I spread this over the base of the first case then sprinkled over some crumbly Caerphilly cheese. For the other I covered the base of the case with sliced tomatoes, spooned over a few tablespoons of ricotta cheese, then added a layer of roughly torn basil leaves.
My measurements and quantities for the egg and cream mix are always a bit make-it-up-as-you-go-along. I used five large eggs whisked together in a jug and then topped up with enough single cream to make enough filling to fill both tarts. I seasoned this with salt and pepper, gave it a good whisk and then poured it into each case until pretty much full.
Serve with salads of your choice as a lunch or supper dish, or as part of a bigger buffet or summer meal.