Strawberry Tart

Is this really a recipe? I’m not sure it is, but the end result is delicious. You can easily make it from scratch, or get a similar result with ready made ingredients.

Firstly, you need a shortcrust pastry base. Put it into a flan tin, and prick the base then blind bake it until it just starts to colour.

Next, you need a custardy filling. We made creme patissiere but I don’t see why you can’t just use shop bought custard (ready made or from powder). Pour it into your pasty base.

Third, you need fruit. Strawberries go nicely here… slice in half and lay them on top. You can then glaze them with some apricot jam mixed with hot water.

If you fully bake the base up front then you could just chill it at this point. We hadn’t, so we baked a bit more (but watch out for the fruit catching). End result is a fresh and tasty treat – who doesn’t love strawberries, custard and pastry?

Gran’s Bran Loaf

This recipe is an exercise in nostalgia for me. My mum used to make this regularly when I was a kid, and I could wolf down slice after slice – each covered with a thick spreading of butter. But it turns out that the recipe actually comes from my gran as I discovered when going through her old recipe books. Everybody who’s tried this seems to love it, and it’s so ridiculously easy to make that you’ve no excuse for not trying it.

Unlike most recipes, the whole thing is done by volumes rather than by weight.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of self raising flour
  • 1 cup of caster sugar
  • 1 cup of dried fruit (sultanas and/or raisins are all you need)
  • 1 cup of bran cereal (like Kellogg’s All Bran)
  • 1 cup of milk
  • A pinch of salt

Method

  1. Put the milk, fruit, sugar and bran cereal in a bowl and leave to soak. My gran suggests doing this overnight, but it doesn’t take that long. Eventually it will just turn into a brown mush.
  2. Mix in the flour and salt.
  3. Transfer to a loaf tin and bake in a “moderate” oven (about 180℃) for 1 ¼ hours. However, I found that mine was ready much sooner than this so I’d suggest checking after 45 minutes.

Once cooled, serve it sliced and buttered. Delicious!

Chicken, Leek and Pancetta Pie

For the bank holiday weekend, I made some Portuguese Custard Tarts – I learnt to make these during a “Perfect Your Pastry” class at John Whaite’s Kitchen, and it involves making a batch of rough puff pastry. I deliberately made a bit extra so that I could make a pie, and this recipe is the resulting dish. It was made up on the fly, so don’t worry too much about getting the quantities exactly right! You could make any kind of white sauce for the “juice”, but I followed my gran’s recipe which includes a bit of lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • 80g smoked pancetta (cubed)
  • 450g skinless and boneless chicken thighs (diced)
  • 1 large leek (sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Approximately 250ml milk
  • Juice of  ½ lemon
  • Puff pastry (I used home made, but ready made is fine)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 200℃ (180℃ fan).
  • Fry the pieces of pancetta in a large frying pan.
  • Once they’re starting to cook, add the diced chicken thigh.
  • Once the chicken thigh is looking cooked, add the leek.
  • When all the ingredients in the pan are cooked through, transfer them to a pie dish.
  • Turn down the heat on the hob and add the butter to the frying pan so it melts.
  • Add the flour to the melted butter and mix well to form a paste.
  • Slowly add milk, a little at a time, mixing well to avoid lumps forming. You’re looking to make a creamy sauce which is thick but just pourable.
  • When the mixture is almost at the consistency you want, add the juice of half a lemon and mix in well. You can also taste the sauce at this point and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it – but remember that the pie will be salty from the pancetta.
  • Pour the sauce into the pie tin so that it covers the other ingredients.
  • Roll out the puff pastry and lay over the pie tin. You can use a bit of the sauce to help seal it around the edges. Crimping the edges with your fingers helps too.
  • Bake the pie in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry looks golden and the filling is piping hot.

We served this up with some petit pois – no need for carb to accompany this because there was so much pastry on top. It’s a proper, home cooked piece of comfort food and was the perfect ending to our August Bank Holiday weekend.