“As this is a book about what I cook and what I find easy at home I’m not going to hide the pastry recipe in a small corner in the back of the book. I find it such a simple thing to make, pre-make, freeze and vary; it is such an asset to home cooking and so versatile. ”
You can make this pastry by hand or in a food processor. Cream together the butter, sugar and a pinch of sea salt, then rub or pulse in the flour and egg yolks.
When this mixture has come together, looking like coarse breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water.
Pat and gently work together to form a ball of dough. Lightly flour and push, pat and squeeze into shape. The idea is to get your ingredients to a dough form with the minimum amount of movement, i.e. keeping your pastry flaky and short (the more you work it, the more elastic it will get, causing it to shrink in the oven and be chewy – ooooh no, matron).
I normally roll the pastry into a really large, short and fat sausage-shape, wrap it in clingfilm and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 1 hour.
Carefully slice off thin slivers of your pastry (don’t try to slice frozen pastry) lengthways, around 5mm thick. (I personally like it around that thickness as it’s delicate, but you can make it thicker if you want, it just takes longer to cook.)
Place the slivers in and around the bottom and sides of your tart mould, just fitting them together like a sort of jigsaw. Then simply push the pieces together, level out, then tidy up the sides by pushing with your thumb and either cleaning off the excess pastry from the rim of the mould, or allowing it to hang over the edge – which is quite rough but I like it.
Once you’ve finished lining your tart mould you must again allow it to rest for at least 1 hour, preferably in a freezer (I always store my pastry in the freezer because it keeps so well).
I always line two tart moulds and freeze one for another day (or you could make more if you want, just double the recipe, as it takes no extra time).
It’s so easy to grab a tart out of the freezer, bake it in minutes and fill it with something simple or elaborate, and if guests turn up or you just want to make a nice dessert, it makes pudding a piece of cake!
To start with, I always bake tart shells for around 15 minutes at 180°C/350°F/gas 4, which will cook the tart all the way through, colouring it slightly.
Once completely cooled it can be filled with any of the uncooked fillings, such as Fruit-filled Mascarpone Tart and Simple chocolate tart, which will hopefully provide a basis for you to make up and vary your own.
With baked fillings such as Almond Tart or Lemon & Lime Cream Tart you’ll have to bake the tart blind first, which means cooking the shell at 180°C/350°F/gas 4 but only for about 12 minutes, so that it’s only lightly coloured but just cooked through.
Another way, commonly used, is to fill the tart shell with clingfilm or greaseproof paper and fill it with beans (you can use rice, lentils, peas, whatever), the idea being that you pack the beans in so tightly that they will stop the sides of the pastry from dropping.
Cook for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the beans and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Yes, this is a bit of a performance and I only ever do it when I’m having bad luck, quite honestly if you take your tart shell straight out of the freezer and place it in a preheated oven you shouldn’t have any problems.
After baking blind, you add your filling and bake further until the filling is cooked (see recipes for cooking times).