Since April, I have been doing an internship at a very small, London based charity, the Women’s Environmental Network. Over the past 27 years, WEN has campaigned on a number of environmental issues, from climate change to real nappies. At the moment, however, their main focus is promoting growing and eating local food as a way to ensure a healthier lifestyle and planet.
I have always been keen on eating seasonal and local food- where possible of course, I have to admit I am quite partial to the odd avocado….
Eating as much local and seasonal food as you can is one of the best ways of promoting a healthy diet. It also ensures that your food is as delicious as possible. I love browsing my local farmers’ market on Saturday mornings, picking out the freshest produce.
I am also very lucky because my parents’ garden is full of fruit trees and berry bushes, as well as the odd tomato and cucumber plant. Plums are one of their most abundant fruits, so our summer diets are always full of plum pies.
This year, the plums seemed to come slightly later- eating into apple season!
This is my gluten free take on a plum classic. It also contains no refined sugar, so is slightly healthier than the traditional version too! Honey is used to sweeten the frangipane, which gives it a slightly different, but equally delicious flavour.
Even if you can happily and without worry eat gluten, I would still highly recommend gluten free flour for pastry. I discovered the pastry like qualities of rice flour one evening as I attempted to make myself a gluten free flatbread to accompany a lentil curry, and it was impossibly crumbly. I finally managed to wrangle the dough into a vague flatbread shape and throw it into a frying pan. When it was the perfect amount of charred on each side, I eagerly began mopping up my lentils, only to find that the texture was crumbly and much more similar to a slab of pastry.
Using gluten free flour completely eradicates the risk of a tough, over worked pastry. It makes for a crumbly, melt in the mouth texture, but it is slightly more difficult to work with and takes a lot more liquid. You might need to do a bit of experimenting to get it right (I have!), but once you’ve found the perfect formula, you’ll love it!
Plum Tart with Honey Frangipane
For the pastry:
125g butter, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon honey
2-3 tablespoons cold water
Rub the butter into the flour until you have a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the honey. In a separate bowl, beat the egg, then gently stir it into the flour mixture. Add the water gradually, bringing the mixture together into a ball of dough. You don’t have to worry as much about the risk of an overworked, tough pastry. What is more of a concern is a pastry that is too crumbly to work with, so it is okay to be a bit rougher with it than usual. Knead it for about 30 seconds, just to bring it together. Wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge while you make the filling.
For the filling:
75g butter, softened
3 tablespoons honey, plus 1 tablespoon
1 large egg
pinch of salt
75g ground almonds
10g rice flour
3 tablespoons almond milk
10 ten ripe plums
Beat the butter and honey together until you have a smooth paste, then beat in the egg. Add the salt, ground almonds and rice flour, and fold into the butter mixture, then stir in the milk. The mixture should be like a fairly stiff cake batter.
Set to one side while you roll out the pastry. Grease and line a pie dish and preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Gluten free pastry can be very very crumbly, so the easiest way to do this is sandwiched between two sheets of cling film. Place one, large piece of cling film on your work top, flatten the pastry onto the cling film slightly, then place another piece on top. Use a rolling pin to roll the pastry out to about ½ an inch thick.
Peel the top layer of cling film off, then using the bottom layer as support, lift the pastry into the pie dish, flipping it so thee pastry is on the bottom and the cling film on the top. Peel the cling film off, and press the pastry into the grooves of the tin.
Place a piece of greaseproof paper over the pastry and fill the case with baking beans (or real dried beans or rice- just something to weigh it down!) Bake your pastry blind for about 15 minutes, or until it is just starting to go golden brown.
Meanwhile, slice the plums in half and remove the pip.
When the pastry case is just baked, pour in the frangipane and spread it until it’s level. Arrange the plums on top, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the frangipane feels firm to the touch and is slightly golden brown. You might need to cover with a piece of tin foil for the last 10-15 minutes to stop the top burning.