Strawberry Mascarpone Tartlets

These were more fiddly to make than I had anticipated, but oh they were worth it. Glorious summer strawberries, brushed with a light glaze of redcurrant jelly, sitting on a bed of mascarpone cream, encased in a sweet pastry case.

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I bought 2 punnets of strawberries so I could pick out the prettiest juiciest specimens.

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I still haven’t tried making creme patisserie, but that would be the more classic option, instead of the mascarpone cream I used. A word of warning – these tarts will get soggy quickly. Only assemble them just before eating, so they are at their best.

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As I have seen in patisseries, these would be great garnished with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios. Unfortunately I forgot to pick any up in the supermarket, but next year perhaps they will make an appearance. You don’t even have to use strawberries. At this time of year, the blackberries are starting to ripen on the bushes – so you could get yourself a big batch of free fruit and just go for it!

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Just for reference’s sake, if these strawberry tarts seem like a bit too much of a faff, there’s an easy-peasy and just as delicious version from last year.

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Tasty Tart

A savoury tart or quiche, or whatever you want to call it is perfect fodder all year round. I think it is one of the best things you can possibly bring along to a picnic, as well as making a fab lunch with a side of some salad.  I have had a few tart mishaps with soggy bottoms et al, but I think I’ve finally ironed out the recipe and oven issues. The last two tarts were beauties – hurrah for perseverence!

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There are a lot of different pastry recipes out there, and I have experimented with loads, including herb-enriched versions and those lower in fat or made with vegetable oil. However, I still think plain old shortcrust is the best foil for the rich filling, and I’ve outlined how I like to make mine underneath.

I prefer making this sort of shortcrust pastry by hand as it’s easy to overmix it in the food processor, and that makes the pastry turn out tough. I might compare the difference between handmade/food processor pâté sucrèe at some point too, but I suspect that it makes less of a difference there.

You can mix and match the filling to contain whatever ingredients you like, although I have a few stock favourites. It’s also a fab way of clearing out the fridge of any leftovers or odds-and-ends.

This tart can be easily adapted to make a lighter version. You can do this by changing the pastry to a lighter version that has a lower proportion of fat, and replacing the double cream with single cream or milk.

Savoury Tart

For a 23cm tart

For the pastry

  • 75g salted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 egg, loosely beaten

For the filling:

  • bite-size pieces of cooked meat or fish
  • a handful of green leafy veg, such as sprouting broccoli or spinach
  • 1/2 leek or 1 onion, washed and sliced into rings
  • 2 spoonfuls of plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml double cream
  • 100g grated hard cheese
  • ground black pepper

Make the pastry first. Rub the butter into the flour until it is breadcrumby, then add the egg little by little and mix together with a knife until it clumps. In a few swift movements, press together into a dough. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200˚C. Make your filling. Sautee the leeks in a little oil until they are soft, then add the ham and stir in the flour. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool, then mix in the eggs thoroughly. Then add the cream and mix in, followed by half the cheese. Season well with pepper.

Roll out the pastry and line the tart case. Trim the pastry with a sharp knife, and reserve the scraps. Chill again in the fridge for 15 minutes, or the freezer for 5 so the pastry is firm.

Stab the base of the pastry case well with a fork. Sprinkle the base liberally with grated cheese so it forms a waterproof seal between the filling and the pastry.

Put the tart into the oven and lower the oven temperature to 180˚C. Bake the pastry case for 15-20 minutes until it is very lightly coloured and pulls away from the sides of the tin. Spoon in the filling. Return to the oven and bake for another 30-40 minutes at 180˚C until the top is golden-brown. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before unmoulding and cutting. It is excellent cold.

Lemon Cake

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When I’m living in my teeny-weeny London flat, with an accompanying tiny kitchen, it makes me appreciate how much easier it is to cook in other circumstances. Not only the issues of space, but that of ventilation, temperature and even the equipment available.

Lately, my London kitchen has been as hot as a furnace. It retains heat like metal to a magnet. Baking (being the delicate diva it is) doesn’t like the temperatures at all, making itself harder work than usual. I see why baking is more popular in colder climates!

Although I’m not fond of using lemons in baking, everyone around me seems to love them, so I had a go at a lemon sponge, sandwiched with lemon curd and lemony mascarpone cream. It’s based on the victoria sponge method, as opposed to the more exotic methods of cakes I have been churning out lately, with good reason. It has a great texture and flavour, and honestly – the lemon yoghurt version wasn’t half as good.

The cakes didn’t rise a lot, given the clement weather within the kitchen, although I did my best to do some of the basic cake preparation work in a cooler room. However, the advantage of this was that they remained flat topped – no trimming necessary!

It went down very well, friends together on the flat balcony, enjoying the balmy sun.

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Lemon Cake

  • 3 eggs
  • the combined egg weight in soft butter, caster sugar, and self-raising flour
  • the zest of 2 lemons
  • generous tablespoon of lemon curd
  • 200g mascarpone
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • lemon juice
  • icing sugar, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line 2 18cm cake tins. Beat the butter, sugar, eggs, the zest of 2 lemons and flour together until just combined, then pour into the cake tins and bake for around 20 minutes until springy and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool.

Then beat the mascarpone until smooth, and add a little icing sugar to taste. Add the zest of 1 lemon, and a little lemon juice to loosen the cream if it is too thick. Spread half the mascarpone cream onto one of the cakes, and spread the spoonful of lemon curd in the centre. Do not spread too much lemon curd onto the cakes or it will leak out everywhere.

Spread the remaining half of the mascarpone onto the top of the other cake, and stack it on top of the other.