Thursday, 16 June 2011

N is for... nutty nectarine and nutmeg tarts with Neapolitan ice cream



Now, I'm happy to admit that this wasn't the most attractive pudding of the alphabet so far, but it was tasty enough to be forgiven for its rather sad appearance. The pastry is a basic sweet shortcrust tweaked so that some of the flour is substituted for ground nuts with added chopped nuts for texture and ground nutmeg for a subtle spice hit. You can use whatever nuts you like, but I used almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts. The filling was a smooth and vanilla-y crème pâtissière and the nectarine slices on top added a sweet tartness that complemented the creamy centre perfectly. I thought the Neapolitan ice cream might be an N too far for this dish, but I did it anyway. Because I'm like that. And anyway, who cares if chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream have no place next to a nutty nectarine and nutmeg tart? Neapolitan's great. As a child growing up in the 1980's I would only ever eat the chocolate and vanilla ice creams from the Neapolitan block unless in dire emergencies (namely when there was only strawberry left). I'd mix both flavours together to make a vanilla and chocolate soup. My oldest sister, Sam, went for the same flavours but luckily my other sisters, Steph and Debbie, were strawberry fans, so it all worked out in the end. Phew.

Nutty nectarine and nutmeg tarts


for the nutty nutmeg shortcrust 
(enough to line 8 individual tart tins or one large)

5 oz/ 125 g unsalted butter
4 oz/ 100 g icing sugar
5 oz/ 125 g plain flour
2 oz/ 50 g ground almonds
2 oz/ 50 g ground hazelnuts
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cold milk
The seeds from 1 vanilla pod
A generous grating of nutmeg
A pinch of salt
3 oz/ 75 g chopped pistachios
1 oz/ 25 g chopped hazelnuts


Blitz the butter and sugar together in a food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the chopped nuts and blitz again until a dough begins to form. Add the chopped nuts and press the pulse button twice - you want to incorporate them into the dough without losing their texture. Tip the dough out on to a large sheet of cling film, pat it down slightly, wrap it up and pop it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C Fan)

Roll out the pastry and line your tin/s. Blind bake individual pastry cases for 10 minutes or one large case for 15 - 20. Remove the tin/s from the oven, remove the baking beans and parchment, brush the pastry bases with a little whisked egg and pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before turning them out of their tins.

for the crème pâtissière

4 egg yolks
100 g / 4 oz caster sugar
25 g/ 1 oz plain flour, sifted
12 fl. oz/ 350 ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod or a splash of vanilla extract
Whisk the egg yolk and sugar together in a bowl until pale and thick. Add the flour and mix in. Score the vanilla pod (if using) down the centre and place it in a saucepan with the milk over a gentle heat. Bring the milk slowly up to the boil, fish out the vanilla pod and pour the milk over the egg, sugar and flour mixture, whisking all the time. Tip the mixture back into the saucepan and place it on a low heat, stirring all the time, until it comes up to a gentle boil. Leave it to boil, still stirring, for a couple of minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract (if using). Pour the creme patissiere into a cold bowl or jug and cover the top with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool. If your mixture has gone lumpy, push it through a sieve before decanting into your clean bowl or jug.

for the nectarines

6-8 ripe nectarines
2-3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp water
A splash of vanilla extract
A knob of butter

Destone and slice your nectarines. Place the sugar and water in a skillet over a medium flame until the sugar has dissolved and the caramel begins to bubble. Add the vanilla and leave to bubble for a minute or so. Stir in the butter and, once melted, top in the nectarines and leave to poach for about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the nectarine slices and then boil the nectarine sauce until it has reduced by half. Leave to cool.

Assembly

Fill the cold tart cases with crème pâtissière, up to their tops and smooth over. Top with some nectarine slices and a drizzle of nectarine sauce.

Neapolitan ice cream



Vanilla

Simply make a rich vanilla custard and once cool, pop it in the fridge for an hour before tipping the cold custard into an ice cream maker. Transfer into a rectangular tupperware dish and pop it in the freezer.

4 egg yolks
4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, scored lengthways or 1 tsp vanilla extract
12 fl.oz/ 350 ml double cream

Place the cream/milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod (if using) and gently bring to the boil. In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy and pop a sieve over the bowl ready. Once the cream has come to the boil, pour it through the sieve over the eggs to strain off the vanilla pod and any woody bits that have come off it in the cream. whisk the eggs, sugar and cream together and pour back into the saucepan. Add the vanilla extract at this stage if using. Place the saucepan over a gentle heat and whisk constantly until the custard thickens enough so that it can coat the back of a spoon and if you draw a line through the custard with your finger, the line remains. Remove  from the heat and pour into a cold jug or bowl. Cover the top with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool completely.

Chocolate

As before, but leave out the vanilla and stir in 100 g of melted dark chocolate to the custard before leaving it to cool. Then pop it in the fridge as before and tip it into an ice cream maker. Transfer to a rectangular tupperware dish and pop in the freezer.

Strawberry

3 punnets of strawberries
4 egg yolks
2 oz/ 100 g caster sugar plus 2 tbsp
12 fl. oz/ 350 ml ml double cream

Hull and chop 2 and a half punnets of strawberries and stick them in a bowl. Sprinkle the strawberries with the 2 tbsp of sugar, cover with cling film and leave to macerate for at least 6 hours.

Blitz the macerated strawberries along with their juice and pass through a sieve into a saucepan. Heat the strawberry juice over a gentle flame until the juice begins to scald. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining sugar and egg yolks in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Once scalded, pour the strawberry juice into the egg mixture and mix thoroughly before returning it all to the heat. Whisk until thickened and transfer to a cold jug. Top the jug with cling film and leave to cool completely before popping the jug in the fridge so it can get properly chilled. Stir in the double cream and pop the lot into an ice cream maker and then transfer it to a rectangular tupperware box and pop in the freezer.

Once all the ice creams have properly set, dunk the boxes in warm water to loosen the ice creams (don't let them melt) and upturn them next to each other, with the vanilla in the middle on a large sheet of cling film. Press each ice cream together firmly so you have one large bock. Work quickly so the ice cream doesn't have time to melt. Wrap the block up in the cling film tightly and pop it back in the freezer. Take the Neapolitan out of the freezer 20 minutes before serving so it softens enough to cut.  

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