Plum Tart with Honey Frangipane

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.

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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.

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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!

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Plum Tart with Honey Frangipane

For the pastry:
225g riceflour
125g butter, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg
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.

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xxR

Boxing Day Cranberry Frangipane Tart

Yet more cranberries!

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This is a festive recipe for carrying on the Christmas celebrations- it’s good to drag it out for as long as possible, and this tart is guaranteed to keep you feeling festive! It’s perfect for snuggling up on Boxing Day by the fire, reading a new book.

It’s the winter version of the raspberry frangipane tart that is one of my all-time summer favourites.

I hope everyone had wonderful Christmasses and that the festivities continue long into the weekend!

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Cranberry Frangipane Tart

For the cranberry jam:

190g fresh cranberries

about 75g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of one small orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Simmer all the ingredients until thickened, stirring occasionally. You might need to add more sugar if it’s too sour- so taste it!

For the pastry:

250g cold butter

150g plain flour

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Begin by rubbing the butter into the flour, until it resembles bread crumbs. Stir in the caster sugar. Slowly add cold water to the mixture, mixing until it comes together to form a ball of dough. Roll out the pastry and place into a greased pie tin, then leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Bake the pastry blind at 180 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until it has started to go golden brown, but not too dark.

For the filling:

175g butter

175g caster sugar

125g ground almonds

65g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

Once the pastry is cool, spread an even layer of cranberry jam over the bottom, then spoon the frangipane filling on top.

Decorate with a few dried cranberries before baking for about 25-30 minutes or until the filling has set and is slightly golden brown. Once cool, drizzle with some water icing and serve immediately with a large mug of tea.

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Merry Christmas!

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xxR

The Heartiest Veggie Winter Pie

This is seriously the pie to end all pies. Well, for me, anyway. Being vegetarian, I’ve never experienced the highly acclaimed chicken-and-leek or steak-and-kidney varieties that are so popular with meat eating Brits. To be honest, I’ve never really given much attention to pies.

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But, sometimes, it turns out, pie is just what you need. This was actually the brainchild of a meat lover who craves all things wrapped in flaky, buttery pastry, but who is also determined to eat less of it (the meat, that is.)

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Seriously, with a pie this crammed full of goodness, who needs meat?

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This is full of layer upon layer of the most delicious roasted veggies. It starts with thinly sliced potato and parsnip at the bottom, then sweet potatoes, then spinach and ricotta, then more sweet potatoes, then caramelised onions and finally goats cheese and pine nuts. We baked it in a cake tin, and it was so crammed full that it started to burst its banks a bit. (There was a slight leak happening on one side- which I neglected to photograph for the purpose of this blog post. But it feels dishonest to pretend it didn’t exist at all!)

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Veggie Pie

for the pastry:

250g flour

1 teaspoon salt

250g butter

about 150 ml cold water

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then rub in the butter. Don’t make it too fine- you need to see chunks of butter in the mixture. Pour in two-thirds of the water and mix to bring the dough together into a ball. Add more water if you need to. Rest in the fridge for at least twenty minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle. You should have a marbled effect from the  butter. Fold the bottom third of the dough up over the middle section, then the top third down, so that you have three layers. Give the dough a quarter turn, then roll out again and repeat the fold. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge.

Repeat this rolling and turning at least once more before using it. Keep it in the fridge right up until you need it to keep the butter firm as this makes it easier to work with.

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for the filling:

2 potatoes

2 parsnips

4 sweet potatoes

handful of mushrooms

1 clove of garlic

200g spinach, wilted

1 tub of ricotta

1 onions

splash of balsamic vinegar

pinch of brown sugar

100g pine nuts

about 1/2 a log of goats cheese

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Begin by par boiling the potatoes and parsnips for about 15 minutes. Then, slice them thinly and roast at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until crispy.

Cook the sweet potato in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until soft. Then slice and roast on a separate baking tray.

Slice the mushrooms and garlic thinly, then fry together until the mushrooms have become soft and juicy. In a large bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta and mushrooms, then set to one side.

Thinly slice the onion, and fry with the balsamic and brown sugar until the onions and soft.

Finally- you are ready to assemble!

Roll out two-thirds of the pastry to about half an inch thick, and place into a well lined cake tin. Make sure the pastry is pushed right down into the corners of the tin.

Make a layer of potatoes and parsnips on the bottom, ensuring that all the pastry is covered. Then, do the same with the slices of sweet potato.

Cover the sweet potato with the spinach mixture. Then make another sweet potato layer. Spoon the onions on top, then cover with knobs of goats cheese and a sprinkling of pine nuts.

Roll out the remaining third of the pastry to form a lid. Lay it on top and crimp the edges.

Bake at 180 degrees for about an hour and a half. You might need to cover the top with tin foil if it is starting to brown too quickly.

This seems like a long process- and it is! But it is very worth it, especially on a cold December day!

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xxR

Pear Tarte Tartin with Blackberry Caramel

My grandparents have a house in the Loire Valley in France. It’s a really old farmhouse, surrounded by fields of cows and sunflowers; the nearest house is a working farm at the end of the lane. It is rural living at its most rural. Days are spent reading in the garden, swimming and sailing on the lake and browsing the markets for the finest cheese and olives.

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When we were children living in America, we went there every summer, after our annual visit to London.

One of our favourite activities at the house is blackberry picking. The lane is overgrown with blackberry bushes, which, by August are laden with fruit, perfect for picking for jam and tarts.

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The blackberries always reminded my mother of the Blackberry Fairy from the Flower Fairy poems by Cicely Mary Barker. (I was a very fairy obsessed child and we had all the Flower Fairy books.)
‘I’ll tear your dress, and cling, and tease,
And scratch your arms and hands and knees’
the poem goes. It’s not lying. The best, biggest, juiciest blackberries are always right at the top, just slightly out of reach. Attempting to pick them always results in scrapes and cuts, which still seem worth it in pursuit of the fruit.
‘I’ll stain your fingers and your face,
and then I’ll laugh at your disgrace.’

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Also true. Blackberries are notorious for their stains. Take this tarte, for example. Okay, I’ll admit, these blackberries were not painstakingly picked from brambles on a lane (in fairness, it is not quite wild blackberry season yet!) But rather were handpicked off a shelf in a shop.

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But the thought is the same! And the juice that turns everything a shade of deep purple. Fingers and pears alike.

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Pear Tarte Tartin with Blackberry Caramel

(I’m calling this caramel in the spirit of a tarte tartin, in which caramel is poured over fruit before pastry is laid on top. In reality it is just runny jam. I’ll also concede that this may not strictly be a tarte tartin for it does not use puff pastry. Really it’s an upside down pear and blackberry pie. But I have delusions of grandeur.)

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For the pastry:
225g plain flour
110g butter (cold)
80g caster sugar
1 egg
Begin by rubbing the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then mix in the sugar. Add the egg and possibly a splash of milk if needed to bring it together into a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes

For the caramel:
1 punnet of blackberries
3 tablespoons caster sugar
splash of water

Put the blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and gently cook until the sugar has dissolved and the blackberries have started to soften. Use a wooden spoon to much the blackberries slightly. Cook until you have a thick syrup.

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To assemble:
4 pears

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon caster sugar

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Peel the pears and cut into thin slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Grease and line a pie dish, then arrange the pears over the bottom of the dish. Try to keep them neat because this will be the side on show! Then pour the blackberry syrup over the pears. Finally, roll out the pastry into a thin sheet and place over the pears.

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Bake at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. Flip the tarte out of the tin, so that it is pear side up and serve warm with cream or ice cream.

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xxR

Granny’s Birthday Lunch and a Delicious Summer Tart

A few weekends ago was my grandmother’s birthday, and we threw her a big family lunch at my parents’ house. My family is pretty large, so at a family lunch, such as this one, there can be as many as twenty people.

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Obviously the most important thing about the day is the company and the conversation, but the food is really important too! (As is the wine, especially to my grandpa, who took a great deal of care to tell us exactly how old the wine was and where it had come from).

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Catering for twenty is never an easy task, especially when some of them are vegetarian, and thus live on lentils and quinoa, and others are traditional English 84-year-olds who are terribly stuck in their ways and would never dream of eating a lentil.

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Luckily, my mother is a complete genius in the kitchen, and also has the patience of a total saint, so doesn’t mind cooking for two days prior to the event! I tried to help too, of course, because I love any excuse to cook anything. I think most of the time, however, I was probably more of a hindrance than a help!

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I was left largely (but not completely) in charge of dessert. Of course, crumbles (one apple, one rhubard, both with custard) were on the menu (Grandpa’s favourite!) But I also couldn’t resist making this really yummy raspberry and frangipane tart. It’s a crisp pastry shell, filled with a thin layer of raspberry jam, covered in soft frangipane and fresh raspberries and topped with a drizzling of icing.

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It went down a hit (except with my uncle, who has an extremely strong allergy to nuts, for whom it did not go down at all, because I was pretty speedy to warn him against it. Definitely didn’t fancy a hospital run on that day!)

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Of course, there was cake and copious amounts of tea. It was a birthday, after all.

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We were also lucky enough to have the full English sun shining down all day, so, all in all, it was quite perfect.

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Raspberry Frangipane Tart

For the pastry:

250g cold butter

150g plain flour

1 tablespoon caster sugar

Begin by rubbing the butter into the flour, until it resembles bread crumbs. I also do this by hand, purely because I love it, but you can use a food processor if you’d rather. Stir in the caster sugar. Slowly add cold water to the mixture, mixing until it comes together to form a ball of dough. Roll out the pastry and place into a greased pie tin, then leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

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For the frangipane:

175g butter

175g caster sugar

125g ground almonds

65g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

To assemble:

about 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam

1 punnet of fresh raspberries

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale. Add the almonds, flour, baking powder, and eggs and mix until well combined.

To assemble, begin by blind baking the pastry. Pre heat the oven to 200 degree. Lay a piece of baking paper over the pastry and fill with baking beans, normal dried beans, rice, whatever you have! Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown.

Reduce the oven to 170 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of jam over the pastry base, then pour in the frangipane filling. Press the raspberries into the frangipane. (I did this by hand- kind of messy I must admit! If you have a better way of doing it, please let me know!) Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling has set and is golden brown.

For the icing:

5 tablespoons icing sugar

2 teaspoons of water (add more or less to get the consistency you want! Keep it thick to retain the white colour)

Mix together icing sugar and water, then drizzle over the tart.

Serve warm or cold and in the sunshine!

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xxR