With a summery freshness in the air, the heavy desserts of winter are on the way out and bright fruity desserts can come back on the menu. It’s that time of year when you pick up a punnet of strawberries and you can really smell the fruit and all its flavours. It can only mean summer is on the way and the fruit being sold is ripe and in season coming from the local market rather than being shipped in from abroad.
I’m someone that eats a lot of fruit on a weekly basis… and I mean a lot. I comfortably go through a couple of packets of strawberries, a pineapple, a melon, box of grapes, normally some mangos (if they’re in season) and a banana every day. No wonder our weekly food bill is so much! Then again, I rarely get ill, so what we spend on filling me up with all the wonderful goodness and vitamins from all the fruit, we save on Strepsils and Lemsip.
I think my love of fruit stems back to my childhood when we had a beautiful garden that had a wonderful vegetable and fruit patch that sprouted endless strawberries and blackberries. You could just wander through the garden, picking off all the juicy strawberries and popping them straight in your mouth, by-passing the basket they were meant to be going in to.
There is something so quintessentially English about strawberries, with some great desserts that make strawberries the star of the show. Most people think of an Eton Mess or a classic Victoria sponge or keep it simple with just strawberries and cream (which I love).
However, with Will’s parents coming for an early Sunday lunch I wanted to make a light fresh dessert to finish off the meal, before they had to head back on the long drive to Cornwall.
I was flicking through some cook books this week looking for something a bit different and came across a Strawberry and Pistachio Tart. The picture won me over with bright red strawberries standing proud, covered in a glistening glaze on a buttery pastry base.
This was the dessert I’d been looking for!
The tart looked impressively glamorous for what was surprisingly easy to make and put together. The most difficult part was making sure I didn’t pop the strawberries in my mouth before they made it on to the base.
For the pastry
200g plain flour
50g shield unsalted pistachio, ground up
Pinch of salt
75g icing sugar
175g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 large free-range egg yolks
For the glaze
500g small, just ripe strawberries
200g seedless raspberry jam
For the topping
25g unsalted pistachios roughly chopped
50g caster sugar
Served with crème fraiche or whipped cream, if you feel more indulgent
For the pastry, put the flour, salt and nuts in a food processor or using your hands mix until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add the icing sugar followed by the butter and combine until the mixture resembles crumbs. Add the egg yolks and bring the mixture together in to a dough.
Shape the dough into a thick disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Unwrap the dough and place it on a piece of non-stick baking paper. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thick round 26cm in diameter circle.I used the bottom of a baking tin that was the correct size to cut round.
Give the edge a fluted decoration by pinching the dough between your fingers.
Transfer the baking paper with the pastry base on to a baking sheet and prick the base all over with a fork (avoiding the fluted edge). Pop this back in the fridge and chill for 15 minutes.
Bake the pastry base for about 20 minutes or until firm and lightly coloured. Leave to cool on a wire rack for about an hour until it is firm.
Remove the hull from the strawberries and halve medium-sized berries and quarter the huge ones.
Heat the raspberry jam in a small pan, stirring until smooth and melted. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat.
Arrange the berries, pointed end up on the base, starting from the centre and working round in spirals. You can use some of the glaze to stick strawberries to the base.
Bring the glaze back to the boil and brush it all over the fruit to coat completely.
Put the pistachios and sugar in a pan and set over a medium heat. Cook gently, frequently shaking the pan until the sugar melts and turns into a golden brown caramel.
Tip onto a sheet of baking paper, spread out evenly and cool.
Just before serving, roughly break up the pistachio caramel in shards and use them to decorate the top of the tart.
This is best eaten within three hours of assembling.
Serve with a spoonful of crème fraiche or whipped cream.
The buttery crispy base is so heavenly with the ground pistachios running through it making it lovely and light and crumbly. The strawberries stand tall and proud with the glaze making them look so shiny and inviting.
With shards of caramel and pistachio providing some crunch against the succulent strawberries this really is a dessert that should be added to the great British dessert list.
This will not only impress your guests with how professional it looks, but wow them with such simple but complementary flavours combined into a dish that would look at home in a posh restaurant.
So rather than going to make the usual Eton Mess if you’ve got some spare strawberries in the fridge, make this and you really won’t be disappointed.