Last July Hebe and myself spent a little time in Barcelona. We stayed in a lovely hotel decked out in black and white, ate lots of salty tapas and I discovered my love of very cheap cava. It was hot and busy and my lack of spanish (turns out chorizo, paella and sangria doesn’t cover it all) meant there were several communication issues. We also failed to get our stomachs to sync with the late eating so gorged on bread and tapas at the bar and never made it to dinner. All good fun though. One thing we did do almost everyday was pop down to the tiny fruit shop round the corner from the hotel every morning to pick up various stoned fruits. Hebe is obsessed with fruit – so obsessed it becomes an expensive habit and we have to hide various punnets from her – but in Barcelona it was cheap. And delicious. Donut peaches were our favourite, but the cherries and nectarines stood their ground pretty well too. Since then I have always loved fresh and perfectly ripe peaches. They need very little doing to them, and I would serve them on the own nine times out of ten, but with a pecan frangipane and some currants they taste pretty good too.
Notes: Apologies to the hotel for the various sticky juice stains we left as we feasted on all the fruit. And apologies to the people of Barcelona – my pasty white skin shouldn’t have to be suffered by anyone. Oh and this recipe is unbelievably versatile in term of substituting the nuts. You can of course go classic with ground almonds, but hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts all make for an interesting filling. The fruit is also customisable too – anything ripe and in season can be whacked on top.
PEACH, PECAN AND BERRY TARTS
For the sweet pastry:
100g unsalted butter, cold
175g plain flour
35g icing sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp milk
For the pecan filling:
150g unsalted butter, softened
150g soft brown sugar
100g pecan nuts
50g self raising flour, or a further 50g nuts if going for a denser filling
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
50g apricot jam
Various fruits, I used donut peaches, white peaches, red currants and pomegranates
Begin by making the pastry. Add all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until a dough forms. Alternatively rub the butter into the flour, sugar and cornflour, then add the milk and knead until it comes together. Cover with cling film and chill for thirty minutes.
For the filling toasted the pecan nuts until light golden in colour and fragrant smelling. I prefer to roast them in the oven at 200C for 2-5 minutes keeping an eye on them, but you can toast them in a pan on a medium heat too, stirring frequently. Allow to cool completely then blitz until you have a fine powder – the consistency of bought ground almonds. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then add the cold nuts, eggs, flour (if using) and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
Roll out the chilled pastry on a floured surface until 2mm thick. Cut out discs and use them to line muffin tins, cup (or fairy) cake tins, tiny canapé tins, fluted tartlet cases, anything you have really. If you want to make one larger tart feel free but you may require more pastry of filling depending on your case. A dolly mixture of little once are always nice though for people to help themselves too. Once you have lined your various tins fill each of the pastry cases with the pecan mixture. There is no need to blind bake here as they are so small, and will cook fairly evenly. Begin baking the larger tarts at 180C for around 15 minutes. Add the smaller ones into the oven in size order, checking regulary. The tiny canapé tarts cooked in five minutes, the cupcake size nine, and he diamond size just over ten. Move then around the oven too if not baking evenly. Allow to cool then carefully lift from the tin using a fine knife.
To assemble, prepare the fruit into fine slices, and making sure it doesn’t go brown. You can always coat in apple or lemon juice if wanting to prepare it in advance. Boil the jam with 3 tbsp water and stir until smooth. Brush a layer of jam on the top of each tart and decorated with sliced peaches and whatever other fruits you fancy. Very tasty with a dollop of yoghurt or creme fraiche as a pudding.