Good things come in small packages! These days, I find myself so incredibly partial to Tapas, finger food, hors d’oeuvres and the like. Both sweet and savoury… as long as it’s bite-size and can be nibbled on intermittently while sipping on a glass of wine or champagne. A relaxing, happy way of eating. Summery and festive, with Christmas and holidays on the horizon!
A savoury, spice-infused shortcrust pastry recipe that can be topped, so easily, with all manner of deliciousness.
1 Teaspoon Fennel Seeds (bashed up a little using a mortar and pestle)
¼ Teaspoon Sea Salt
80g Cold Unsalted Butter (cut into small cubes)
1 Free-Range Egg Yolk (beaten together with 2 Tablespoons Iced Water)
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, fennel seeds and sea salt. Add the butter and pulse a few more times until it becomes the texture of course breadcrumbs. Now pour in the egg yolk/water mixture and pulse until the pastry just comes together in a ball. Refrigerate the pastry (wrapped up in cling wrap) for about 30 minutes.
Roll the pastry out onto a board dusted with flour, to a thickness of about 3mm. Using a round cookie cutter (approx 5 cm in diameter), cut discs of pastry and press them into mini-muffin trays. Chill the prepared trays in the freezer for 10 minutes, before baking.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Allow the shells to cool in the muffin trays for a few minutes, before carefully removing to a cooling rack.
The tartlet shells are now ready for you to dress up with your chosen fillings – the options are endless, however I’ve listed a few possibilities at the end of this post.
The photo above, shows some shells filled with Goat’s Curd and topped with some roasted red peppers/capsicum, fresh thyme leaves, a drizzle of E.V olive oil and a little grinding of pepper and salt.
Notes on Cooking
If the filling you intend to place in the tartlets requires baking as well, par-bake the shells for only about 12 minutes, before adding the filling and then return to the oven until cooked.
Consider using other herbs and spices to bring a little life to your pastry – cumin seeds, caraway seeds, thyme leaves, rosemary and lavender are a few to try.
Ideas for Fillings
Creme Fraiche, topped with thin strips of smoked salmon and a caper or two.
Boursin Cheese, topped with a roasted cherry tomato and some torn fresh basil.
Goat’s Curd, topped with some chopped (pitted) kalamata olives, fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
(Persian) Feta Cheese with caramelised onion and fresh oregano or thyme leaves.
There are certain fruits and vegetables that I adore seeing on display at the Farmer’s Markets, but I never quite know what I’d make with them if I gathered them up and brought them home. Things like persimmons, pomegranates, quinces, globe artichokes and kale all fall into this enticing, yet somewhat untried and untested category. Invariably I find myself wandering the stalls until I reach produce that I’m comfortable with, produce that speaks to me immediately with recipe ideas. The berries, the stone fruit, the citrus, the root vegetables, the salad greens. In fact, come to think of it, there’s actually quite a lot that I don’t walk past… I guess it just feels that way sometimes.
With this innate feeling that I’m missing out on experiencing these seasonal treats, the plan is to gradually overcome this little shortcoming by delving into these delights that others know and understand already. I feel very lucky in the fact that many of the food bloggers I follow, either come from or live in parts of the world where the use of these ingredients is nothing unusual, so a wonderful selection of recipes and knowledge is there to be discovered.
For me, rhubarb falls on the fringe of this category. We used to (quite happily) eat bowlfuls of stewed rhubarb, with a dash of milk, cream or ice-cream stirred through, for dessert when I was growing up. It’s just unfortunately something that I don’t tend to cook for my own family. Time to turn that around!
I used a delicious shortcrust pastry recipe from a British/Dutch blog named ‘My Foodtopia’ – please see here for the link to the pastry recipe. It made enough pastry for not only the rhubarb tart, but for a dozen gorgeous little Strawberry Jam Tartlets as well (which were baked in a muffin tin) – photoattached here.
I found it best to make the pastry first, press it into the tart tin and then allow it to rest/chill in the refrigerator while the filling is being made.
Ingredients for the filling:
450g Rhubarb (chopped)
220g/1 Cup Raw Sugar
125ml/½ Cup Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Paste or Extract (or the seeds from 1 Vanilla Pod)
100g Raspberries (Fresh or defrosted from Frozen)
Place the rhubarb, sugar, juice and vanilla into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then allow to boil for about 10 – 15 minutes (stirring occasionally) until it becomes a jam-like consistency. Remove from the heat, stir in the raspberries and allow to cool completely.
Once cool, spoon the mixture into the prepared tart case and top with pastry lattice. Brush the pastry with a little egg wash (1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of milk or water).
Place into the oven, pre-heated to 180°C and bake for approximately 40 – 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
Allow to cool completely, before serving with whipped cream and/or ice-cream.
Filling recipe inspired by, but adapted from a Gourmet Traveller recipe.