With June almost on our doorsteps now’s the perfect time to make use of the delicious English strawberries that are filling the farm shops and greengrocers. This tart makes the most of the simple but wonderful flavours that I love about British summertime. Who could resist the combination of juicy strawberries with creamy vanilla custard, sweet jam and crisp pastry? It really is a match made in heaven.
I love the food of summer and try and make the most of the good weather whenever it appears by having a BBQ or eating al fresco. Like many people the long, warm evenings and blue sky really improve my mood. I find it so much easier to keep a positive outlook during these months. Getting out of the bed in the morning isn’t even a hardship when the sunlight is shining through the curtains or blinds.
So lets celebrate summer as much as we can and try and absorb all that positive energy to keep us going through the less kind months. Make the most of every opportunity to be outside, take lots of walks in the country or by the beach and as soon as the sun comes out pick up the phone and arrange an impromptu BBQ. If you keep your freezer stocked with packs of sausages, rolls and homemade burgers it means you can keep up with the very unpredictable weather and get the BBQ on as soon as the temperature rises.
Exposure to bright light as well as socialising and chatting to others are natural ways that we can increase out serotonin levels. If that’s not a good enough excuse for a BBQ I don’t know what is. The recipe below makes the perfect dessert for any summer gathering. You can get the pastry baked and the custard made the day before, just keep the custard in the fridge until you need It and then it can be assembled in less than 20 minutes, simple but stunning! I prefer to make my own sweet, short crust pastry but if you like you could use a roll of ready made to save some time. Lets hope the sun shines again soon, happy cooking!
Fresh Strawberry & Vanilla Custard Tart
FOR THE PASTRY:
225g plain flour
100g cold unsalted butter, diced
80g caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
FOR THE CUSTARD:
6 egg yolks
4 tbsp caster sugar
1.5 tbsp plain flour
1.5 tbsp cornflour
375ml whole milk
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
About 300g strawberries, halved
6 tbsp good quality strawberry jam
Put the flour, sugar and butter for the pastry in a food processor and pulse a about 6-7 times until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg gradually with the motor running, you may not need it all. The mixture will form into clumps (see pic) when you’ve added enough.
Now use your hands to bring the mixture together, there shouldn’t be any dry floury patches left in the bowl, if there is add a little more egg a drop at a tsp at a time until the dough comes together. Knead for just a few seconds and shape the dough into a hockey puck and wrap in cling film, rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Put your unwrapped pastry on a lightly floured surface and bash lightly with the pin a few times to flatten. Now you can start to roll, to keep the pastry round rotate the pastry circle 45degrees in between each roll. You are looking for a circle large enough to cover line a 22 or 23cm fluted tart spring form tin with a slight over hang. Put the tart ring onto a baking tray. Carefully lift up the pastry and drape it over the rolling pin then lay it across the flan tin. Press the dough into the corners of the tin using a small ball of pastry to help you get it right into the corners, don’t trim off the edges.
Heat oven to 200C 180C fan gas 6. Fill the pastry case with a round of baking paper and add baking beans or dried beans or rice to weigh it down. Bake for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and beans and cook the pastry for 8-12 minutes more, the pastry will look golden and feel sandy to the touch. You want to make sure it is well cooked to avoid a soggy bottom. Trim off the overhanging pastry now with a small sharp knife.
Next make the custard. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed pan and bring up to the boil. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks, sugar and both flours. Pour the milk on top and whisk to combine. Rinse out the pan then strain the eggy milk back into the pan through a sieve. Return to a medium/low heat and cook until thickened stirring all the time. Don’t have the heat too high or the mixture may split. Beat in the vanilla and then cover with cling film to stop a skin forming. Leave to cool.
Spread 4 tbsp of the jam onto the base of the tart. Heat the rest in a small pan. Pour the custard onto the tart. Next arrange the halved strawberries, start from the outside and work your way in. Lastly brush with the melted jam to glaze. Serve with cream or ice cream.