Blackberry Tart with Mascarpone and Vanilla

It’s getting a little late now for foraging for blackberries, but if you are lucky enough to find some, or planned ahead and have a tub in the freezer, this is a simple and delicious dessert. it works just as well with raspberries, blueberries or plums.

I’m not one for desserts. You can probably guess that from the lack of sweet treats here, but this is irresistible. You may want to adjust the amount of caster sugar based on the sweetness and ripeness of your fruit.

1 x 375g pack of puff pastry
1 x 250 tub of mascarpone
4 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g or thereabouts of berries of your choice
2 tablespoons demerara sugar

Pop the oven onto 220C

Roll out the pastry to about 5mm thickness (or use ready rolled). Line a tin with parchment and lay the rolled pastry on top. You want the pastry to be rectangular and fit the size of your tin. Now take a sharp knife and score around the perimeter, about 2cm in from the outer edge. Now pp it into the oven for around 8-10 minutes until puffed up but not browned.

Take out the oven and gently press down the middle area. Allow to cool.

Mix the mascarpone with the caster sugar and vanilla extract, then blod or gently smear over the middle of your part-cooked pastry. Top with the berries, then scatter the demerara sugar over. Pop back in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the edges are browned and the berries are starting to release their juices.

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Mushroom Pie

A rich and satisfying puff pastry topped pie that makes a great centrepiece for a Sunday lunch or for Christmas Day with all the trimmings

This recipe will feed 5-6 people

1 tablespoon olive oil
A knob of butter or dairy free margarine/spread
1 onion – finely chopped
300g mushrooms – sliced
1x400g tin of green, brown or puy lentils or two generous handfuls of lentils boiled in water for 20 minutes
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 vegetable stock cube or 1 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder
1 teaspoon marmite
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 handful parsley – roughly chopped
1 pack of puff pastry
1 egg yolk or a splash of milk (dairy or non dairy)

Heat the oil and butter or spread in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent. Add the mushrooms, turn up the heat and fry off until well cooked and most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan. Add the soy sauce and stir gently.

Now add the flour and stir well so the mushrooms are coated. Slowly add water, keeping the pan on a medium to high heat, stirring all the time, until you have a nice thick gravy. Now reduce the heat to low, drain and add the lentils, stir in the marmite and crushed stock cube or bouillon powder. Simmer gently for around 5 minutes then stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

Take a 20cm pie dish and fill with the mushroom and lentil mixture. Brush a little egg or milk around the edge of the dish, then top with the pastry, pressing down gently and tucking into the sides of the dish. Trim the edges of the pastry. Now get creative and decorate the top with shapes from the pastry trimmings. I used Christmas trees as it was Christmas and trees are nice and easy to make.

Brush the whole thing with egg or milk and pop in the oven at 200C for around 45 minutes or until golden brown and pastry and your decorations ave puffed up.

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Cauliflower & Kale Tart

Tart, flan, quiche. Call it what you will, the combination of light, fluffy egg and thin, crisp pastry is something I never tire of.

Frying the cauliflower until charred brings out flavour. Don’t be afraid if you think you are burning it. The more colour, the more flavour.

I cheated here and used a ready rolled packet of shortcrust pastry. Less washing up and so much easier despite the fact they are made just a little too narrow for most tart tins.

1 pack shortcrust pastry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small cauliflower – divide the florets then slice
A couple of handfuls of kale or cavalo nero
1 onion – finely sliced
8 eggs
2-3 tablespoons creme fraiche
100g or so of strong cheese – grated

Put the oven on to 180C

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the cauliflower over a medium heat until browned and slightly tender. Remove from the pan and fry the onion until it starts to brown.

Set aside to cool.

Plunge the kale into boiling water for 5 mins. Drain then leave to cool.

Beat the eggs and creme fraiche in a large bowl then add the grated cheese and the cooled vegetables.

Roll the pastry a little to fit then use it to line the base and sides of a deep pie dish, making sure there are no cracks or holes. If you have any cracks the filling will seep through leaving a soggy base to your tart. Spread the mustard over the base of the pastry, then tip in the filling mixture.

Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until browned on top and set in the middle. Leave to cool and set for 5 minutes before serving.

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Courgette and Manchego Tart

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Another way to use up some of the daily crop of courgettes. This makes enough tart to serve 4-6 people depending on what you have with it

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 courgettes – sliced
4 eggs
100g or so of manchego – grated
shortcrust pastry to line a flan dish – I usually do this as 6oz flour to 3oz butter, one egg yolk and a splash of water (apologies for the mixing of metric and imperial measurements)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Start by frying the courgette slices in batches. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, when very hot, place the courgette slices in a single layer – careful as they can spit a little. When browned, turn over until brown on both sides. Place in a bowl and fry another layer until they are all done. Leave to cool.

While the courgettes are cooling, make the pastry. I just chuck it all the food processor, roll out, line a flan dish, then blind bake at 180C for about 15 minutes. The courgettes still carry a lot of water even after frying to it is essential to blind bake the pastry else you’ll have a very siggy base. Allow to cool a little, then spread the Dijon mustard evenly over the base.

Beat the 4 eggs, then add the courgettes and manchego. Season with salt and black pepper. Mix, pour into the pastry case and return to the oven for about 25 minutes until the eggs have set.