Blackcurrant Tarts

June & July are blackcurrant season in the garden. Harvesting actually does span over two months for me because our blackcurrant bush is very old, very big & its fruit continues to ripen at different stages in early summer. It’s one of the few nice things that I actually inherited with my house. The previous owners may have left me with dodgy electrics, ugly carpets (everything was an ugly shade of purple!) & an uneven kitchen floor but thankfully they did leave me with a decent garden.

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Along with my massive blackcurrant bush, I also inherited a grape vine, an abundance of wild strawberries, raspberries & rhubarb… it almost makes up for the dodgy wiring & trunking…. almost. Needless to say, with a few edible additions of my own over the years, my garden is keeping me quite busy in the kitchen these days. Blackcurrants are by far my biggest fruit harvest each year though & usually find their way into several jars of intensely, deep purple jam. This year however (thanks to Covid) I’ve had a lot more time on my hands to experiment with some new & rather pretty uses for my garden gluts.

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Others may see an excess of one particular food as a nuisance… believe me, I know where you’re coming from, it can be tiresome eating the same fruits or veggies for weeks on end (this year it’s courgettes), feeling as though you owe it to yourself as a gardener to eat & enjoy all of your efforts. Even as the compost bin looks ever so tempting, you daren’t let anything go to waste. However, I see any glut as an opportunity to experiment a little in the kitchen.

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Unlike other seasonal fruits & veggies that perhaps don’t provide a massive yield, the sorts of ones that I want to savour & prolong the life of purely because there’s less of them (think wild strawberries), whenever I find myself with a glut of anything, I feel as though I can afford the loss or casualties during some recipe testing.

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After all, this is food that hasn’t cost me anything apart from a little bit of time & love to produce. Blackcurrants are a particularly easy crop to grow too, they’re hardy & will grow pretty much anywhere, even in containers if you’re short on space. Probably the most flavoured, coloured & tart of all the summer berries though they can be a little bitter for some people unless they’re sweetened.

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In this year’s efforts to come up with something new to use up my tart little glut, I’ve sweetened them up into these pretty, purple tarts. A rich, crisp pastry shell, filled with a lightly sweetened, tart, gloriously colourful creme patissiere, topped with an elderflower infused swiss meringue buttercream & finished simply with plump berries, fresh mint & edible flowers from the garden. Even I’ll admit, this is a lot prettier to look at than jam.

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BLACKCURRANT TARTS
(makes four 12cm tarts)

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 400g plain flour
  • 140g icing sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g butter, cubed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1-2 tbsp cold water

For the blackcurrant creme patissiere:

  • 400g blackcurrants
  • 600ml milk
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g plain flour

For the swiss meringue topping/decoration:

  • 1 large egg white (around 60g)
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 180g butter, cubed
  • 2 1/2 tsp elderflower cordial

To decorate:

  • Handful of blackcurrants
  • 4 cornflowers (or other edible flowers)
  • A few mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp apricot jam to glaze

Method:

To make the pastry cases:

  • To make the pastry begin by combining the flour, salt & icing sugar in a large bowl
  • Add in the cubed butter & using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
  • Add in the egg yolks & stir this though until it begins to form small clumps
  • Add in 1 tbsp at a time of the water (only adding the second if it’s not coming together), stirring after each addition until the pastry dough starts to come together in clumps then use your hands to finish bringing it together to form a dough
  • Flatten the dough into a shallow disc shape, cover in cling film & chill in the fridge for approximately 1 hour (you could even do this the day before)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C & roll out the pastry roughly the thickness of a £1 coin
  • Line the tart tins with the pastry, leaving it hang over the edges of the each tin
  • Use a fork to prick small holes all over the base of the pastry
  • Place a sheet of baking parchment in each pastry case & fill with baking beans
  • Blind bake the pastry for 15 minutes
  • Remove the pastry cases from the oven, remove the baking beans & parchment
  • Brush the inside of the tart cases with some of the leftover egg whites & put back in the oven for another 9-10 minutes until golden in colour (you can cover the edges of the pastry with a little foil if they begin to brown too quickly)
  • Remove the tin from the oven & trim off the excess pastry overhanging the sides of the tin whilst it is still hot from the oven
  • Set the tart cases to one side to cool

To make the blackcurrant creme patissiere:

  • Begin by placing all of the blackcurrants into a saucepan & place over a medium to high heat until they begin to burst & turn pulpy
  • Remove from the heat & either place in a food processor or use a hand blender to blitz the blackcurrants until you have a smooth puree
  • Set aside to cool
  • Gently warm together the milk & vanilla in a medium sized saucepan
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar & plain flour
  • Slowly pour the warmed milk mixture into the bowl, continuing to whisk the mixture as you do so
  • Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan & set over a medium heat
  • Continue to cook & stir the mixture until is has thickened (it will take about 5 – 10 minutes & it may look curdled to start with but keep stirring, it will come together)
  • Once thickened, remove from the heat, add in the blackcurrant puree & whisk together
  • Pour the creme patissiere into a wide bowl & place a sheet of cling film directly onto the surface before leaving to cool

To make the swiss meringue:

  • Bring a medium saucepan filled halfway with water to a gentle simmer
  • In a bowl large enough to rest on top of the saucepan (without touching the water), add in the egg & sugar & whisk together
  • Gently heat the egg & sugar together over the saucepan until all of the sugar has dissolved & you can no longer feel any grains of sugar with your fingertips
  • Either use a hand mixer or pour the egg mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer & whisk for at least 10 minutes until it has thickened to form a glossy meringue texture & had cooled to at least room temperature
  • Keeping the whisk running, add in the butter, one cube at time, ensuring that each addition is well whisked into the meringue before adding the next
  • Add the elderflower cordial to the meringue & whisk again
  • Continue to whisk for a further 5 minutes until nice & smooth
  • Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a nozzle of your choosing

To assemble the tarts:

  • Remove the pastry cases from their tins
  • Either place the creme patissiere in a piping bag to fill the cases or carefully spoon the mixture into the cases & use the back of the spoon to even & smooth the surface
  • Pipe the swiss meringue however you like over the tops of each tart (you can cover it or just add the odd swirl)
  • Arrange the blackcurrants, mint leaves & edible flowers on top of each tart
  • Gently heat the apricot jam either in the microwave or in a saucepan & carefully use a pastry brush to glaze over the fruit

whisk

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