Friday, 9 March 2012

Sometimes all you need is an excuse.

The last weekend did not go entirely as planned. We had aimed for two days of gently sorting out the garden, of wading through the mountains of weeds that have sprung up, and of uprooting the debris from last years veg growing attempts.
However, it wasn't to be. A late night on Friday, perhaps accompanied by a few too many drinks ensured a late start to Saturday. This, coupled with the rain and the cold made us less than enthused, then there was the discovery that once again the kitchen appliances are ganging up on me. First the dishwasher (which hasn't been playing ball for months, tricksy little thing),  and now the fridge. I'm telling you, they're in leagues against me. So yes, we did not begin the weekend quite as expected, and even a batch of cinnamon pancakes couldn't boost the energy levels.

There was only one thing for it. A trip to the local farm shop in search of treats, fruit and cream. Yes, when life gives you a rainy weekend there is only one thing to do.

Make pie.

I used frozen cherries that I defrosted and then cooked slightly with a dash of brandy and a handful of dried tart cherries to take the edge off the sweetness. I then drained them (to avoid a soggy bottom on my pie). Then I discovered that we didn't have quite enough butter for a full pie, so Plan B was put into place. Small tart, topped with crumble, and not a smidgen of butter remained.
But I didn't stop there, oh no. On Sunday, when we actually ate the pie, it was no longer raining, it was sleeting. Drastic times call for drastic measures. We needed custard! Thank goodness I'd bought cream and then remembered that due to the lack of fridge it would need to be used immediately. Such a shame.

A couple of hours later, huddle in the warm embrace of the living room, with two very happy cats (they love it when we stay in and help them guard the sofa), we indulged completely in pie, and custard. And I'm not ashamed to say it, but we even opened some Prosecco. Why? because a Sunday that forces you to slow down and catch up sometimes deserves celebrating.
This pie/tart/crumble is super simple, and easily adaptable. I rolled the pastry, N whipped together the crumble and in went the fruit. The hardest bit was remembering to stir the custard, and not be distracted by the sight of the pie cooling slightly across the kitchen.

If you use frozen fruit I would defrost it and drain the juice, not only does this help stop your pie base being soggy, and eliminate the need for an initial blind bake of the pastry, but it also means you can reduce this down and use it as a posh "jus."

Pastry: - makes just enough for the base of an 8' fluted tart pan.
165g Plain flour
50g light muscovado sugar
90g cold butter
1/2 beaten egg
1 tbsp cold water

I make my pastry in a food processor as I find it quicker and easier and helps to keep it cool. However, I find this pastry to be very forgiving and will be light and crumbly even if overworked slightly. If you don't have a food processor, just bring the ingredients together as lightly and quickly as possible into a dough.

Then chill for 30mins/1 hr in the fridge before rolling out and file the tart pan. Once laid out in the tart pan chill for a further 30mins. I put mine in the freezer to get really cold.

Then you can turn the oven to 190C to preheat and make the crumble.

63g butter
75g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
38g ground almonds
20 rolled oats
25g demerara sugar

Bring all the ingredients together in a bowl until it looks like large piece of clumpy gravel! 

I used around 700g of frozen cherries, and 100g tart dried cherries

If using frozen fruit, make sure you defrost it and drain away most of the juice (not all you don't want a completely dry tart)

I'm afraid I don't have anything more accurate than this, But I think that if you were using fresh a good combination would be two or three bramley apples chopped with around 100g raisins soaked in brandy. Yes...I'm already getting ideas for what to do with this next!

When the base is chilled, pour in the fruit and then top liberally with crumble (the mix will give you more than you need to cover the fruit, but I like to leave slight gaps where the fruit juices can ooze through)

Bake for aprox. 20mins, until the both the pastry and the crumble are turning golden. Remove and cool for ten minutes before turning out and slicing. Best eating with lashings of cream or custard.

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