This recipe is all about simplicity, and enjoying the delicate flavours of two of my favourite vegetables: beautiful florets of cauliflower and broccoli nestled in crisp shortcrust pastry, delicately seasoned with a light and creamy egg custard.
Underneath the eye-catching exterior, it is a broccoli and cauliflower quiche, but with a slightly different approach and a few minutes devoted to presentation, it can be quite the showstopper.
The pastry base is baked completely, for maximum crispness, the creamy egg filling is poured in and the briefly blanched vegetables are then arranged in a delightful checkerboard pattern. Covering the whole with a tight seal of foil allows the vegetables to cook to al-dente perfection while the custard sets, without becoming discoloured from the heat of the oven. The vegetable stalks, nestled in the creamy filling, cook through perfectly, and the florets gently steam in the resulting moisture, retaining their bright colour.
It can be served warm or cold, as an accompaniment or a side dish. It slices beautifully and thus can be enjoyed as an an usual addition to a picnic hamper.
Best of all, although possibly not for those of you who love the rigid formality of recipes, it can be made in whatever size and shape you like. Originally, I only planned the large size, but in trimming the florets to even sizes, found myself with numerous smaller, but still perfectly-formed florets, and so made smaller tarts, and even tiny individual ones too.
The only limit is how prepared you are for the sometimes fiddly process of arranging the florets. My solution for minimising the Faff™ is to, in the first instance, arrange the florets in the empty pastry case, then remove them in rows and lay them neatly in order to one side, add the filling to the tart case, then lift the florets back into position in rows. Should you have a mishap, and one or more of your florets tumble into the filling, take a moment to rinse off the egg mixture otherwise the overall effect will be spoiled.
A mentioned above, the main enjoyment comes from the delicate flavours, but you could also add other ingredients to the filling, if you’d like to turn up the taste volume.
The quantities are, to a large extent, dictated by the size and number of tarts you want to make. The unused vegetables can be stored in the fridge for several days and then steamed for a just five minutes before serving as accompaniments to other meals. Be sure to get the freshest, whitest cauliflower and the firmest, crispest broccoli (the florets should not move when you poke them) for maximum colour and visual impact.
1-2 fresh, white cauliflower
2-3 large florets of broccoli
shortcrust pastry – I prefer my cornflour shortcrust.
egg-white for glazing
500ml low-fat crème fraiche
2 large eggs
salt and pepper
- Cut the vegetables into large florets and steam for five minutes over boiling water.
- Put a clean cloth on a baking tray and lay the vegetables on top to cool. Set aside until required.
- Prepare the baking tin. For the large tart I used a deep spring-form tin and laid the pastry only half-way up the sides. The vegetables also sat neatly inside the sides of the tin. For shallower tins, the vegetables will sit a little higher.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Roll the pastry out to a thickness of 5mm and line your baking tin. Trim the sides to a height of about 3cm. Poke holes in the bottom to let out the steam, using a fork.
- Line the tin with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove the parchment/beads/rice and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes until cooked through.
- Whisk the egg-white until frothy, then use a pastry brush to ‘paint’ the inside of the tart with it thoroughly.
- Return the tart case to the oven for two minutes to cook the egg-white. Set aside to cool.
- Reduce the oven heat to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
- Trim the vegetables to florets of even sizes of about 5cm. The exact size will be dictated by the size/shape of your tin. You want them to fit snugly together, to hold their shape.
- Once the pastry case has cooled, arrange the florets in a pattern until it is full, to ensure you have sufficient florets prepared. You will probably need to trim the stalks to no longer than 3cm.
- When your tart is full, carefully remove the florets and set them aside in rows, so they can easily be returned to the tart once the filling is added.
- Whisk together the crème fraiche and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. If the tart is to be eaten cold, be generous with the seasoning, as flavours will be slightly muted when chilled.
- Pour the filling into the pastry case to within 5mm of the top of the pastry. Arrange the blanched vegetables back into place.
- Cover the tin tightly with foil and bake until the filling is set. For a large tin, this will be about 45 minutes, smaller tins around 35 minutes and mini tins 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin(s).
Here’s a little something that popped into my head trying to combine a childhood favourite (banana custard) with an all-American classic (banana cream pie).
Instead of using custard powder from a tin, I wanted to make proper, egg-yolk custard with a vanilla bean for flavouring. Whilst scanning the recipes on Tastespotting I noticed several recipes included peanut butter as an additional flavouring. Others had used chocolate. I thought: bananas, peanut butter, chocolate, custard – what’s not to like? Why not pile all four together into one glorious, outrageously decadent dessert?
Let us pause here for a confession – I find that all the huge, towering and generally overblown portions seen on many American food shows make me slightly unwell: it’s just too much food. If it tastes good, why does it have to be stacked 20-25cm high? Do 30 slices of brisket taste any better than two slices? The desserts are frequently the same. It really doesn’t make my mouth water to see a whole mountain of cream and cake and custard and toppings and goo and anything else that can be thrown at a dessert poised precariously on a woefully inadequate plate.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE watching American cooking shows. For a long time I was a great Man v Food fan, although the pig-out ‘challenges’ I found a bit gross. Now I’ve moved on to Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He shows some delicious food, and best of all, you see the restaurant owners making some of their best sellers, and the recipes are usually available on the food network website. There’s lots that I would like to try, but I’d make them in normal, regular-sized portions rather than the vast quantities shown on the show.
So with this dessert, I wanted great flavours, but in a restrained quantity. The slice in the photograph is just 4cm high, and 10cm long. For all it’s petite dimensions, it tasted amazing. I had to send the rest with my husband to his work, otherwise the temptation might have been too great.
I talked about this a bit on Twitter, but for those that missed it, the rundown of the layers, starting at the bottom, is: chocolate crust, banana slices, vanilla crème patissière, banana slices, peanut butter cheesecake, double cream, cocoa. I’ve tried this layering both ways – custard on the bottom & custard on the top, and I think it actually works better from a texture perspective, with the custard layer on the top, which is not how the slice in the photo was done, but it’s entirely up to you which way round you layer it.
Apart from being OMG AMAZING, this dessert is great because you can make everything separately and then just assemble it when convenient. Having said that, I found it was better if the custard was poured when warm, but you can use it cold just fine. This is very much a Lego dessert – I’ve taken recipes for each element from here and there and clicked them together to make something delicious. The chocolate crust is actually the scaled down recipe from the Midnight Meringue. I halved and tweaked a Raymond Blanc recipe for crème patissière and adapted the peanut butter layer from a pie recipe I found on the web.
I hope you enjoy the flavours enough to give this recipe a try, because together they are fabulous.
100g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
60g caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp milk
- Preheat the oven to 200°C 180°C Fan.
- Grease and line with parchment a loose-bottomed, 20cm tart tin.
- In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
- Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
- Add the tablespoon of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
- Press the mixture into the base of your pie tin. If you’ve got extra pastry left over, you could press it into the sides to make a full tart shell.
- Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking beads and bake blind for 10 minutes.
- Remove beans and parchment and return to the oven until fully baked (8-10 minutes).
- Allow the pastry to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
4 large egg yolks
40g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
15g plain flour
250ml whole milk
- Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds.
- Put the seeds into a bowl with the yolks and sugar.
- Put the pod into a small saucepan with the milk and put it over the lowest possible heat to infuse.
- Whisk together the vanilla seeds, yolks and sugar until they are pale and creamy.
- Whisk in the flour and cornflour and set aside.
- Bring the milk to a boil and strain it through a fine sieve to remove the vanilla pod.
- Whilst whisking, pour the hot milk down the side of the bowl onto the egg mixture.
- Make sure , whisking all the time, then return the mixture to the pan.
- Keep whisking the mixture over a low heat until it thickens.
- Pour the thickened custard into a bowl and lay cling film onto the surface to prevent a skin forming.
Peanut Butter Cheesecake
100g cream cheese, room temperature
2tbs icing sugar
100g smooth peanut butter
125ml double cream
- Whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
- Add the sugar and whisk to incorporate.
- Add the peanut butter and mix thoroughly.
- Add the double cream and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
2 medium bananas
200ml double cream
cocoa for sprinkling
This is more of a suggestion than hard and fast rules. Order the layers how you like. If you have some food-grade acetate, use it to line the edge of the tin – it will make for a cleaner edge to the dessert when you slide it out.
- Slice one of the bananas extremely thinly and lay the slices in a layer on top of the chocolate crust.
- Select your next layer – peanut butter or custard. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle and pipe the filling over the banana slices. You don’t HAVE to do this, but just spreading with a spoon tends to make the banana slices lift up and move out of place. Make sure the banana slices are completely covered – this will help to slow down the browning of the banana.
- Slice the second banana thinly and place in a layer over the piped filling.
- Put your second layer into the piping bag and pipe over the second banana layer. Again, make sure the banana slices are completely covered.
- Whip the double cream to soft peaks and spread lightly over the op of the dessert.
- Sprinkle cocoa over the whipped cream.
- Cover lightly with cling film and chill until required.
As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get side-tracked a lot when browsing the internet, and the inspiration for this week’s recipe is the result of just such a wandering.
Apple and cheese is a classic combination, and together with some smoked ham is one of my favourite toasted sandwiches. But that’s another story. In Yorkshire, it is traditional for Wensleydale cheese to be served alongside slices of apple pie, and a saying dating back over 250 years tells us
‘An apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze.’
An alternative to serving cheese alongside, is to bake it into the pastry, where it rounds out the flavour of the apple deliciously, without being obvious.
The recipe today pushes this a little bit further by adding green chillies to the apple mixture, and is an adaptation of one served at Chile Pies and Ice Cream, in San Francisco.
Although I found several versions of the pie online, after baking it as per the original, I decided that it needed tinkering with (sorry Chile Pies and Ice Cream!) and the results are below. I was unable to find the roasted chillies specified in the original recipe (Confession: I didn’t even look), so I went with fresh chillies and de-seeded them, which I found gave a real freshness and just enough of a hint of heat without swamping everything. Adding the zest of the lemon as well as the juice really brings out the apple flavour and I’ve reduced the amount of spices, which I found too strong in the original. Even with almost double the original amount of cheese in the pastry, the flavour is not too much, so if you want to go really cheesy, maybe add some grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, and as always, the dry mustard powder really rounds out the flavour. The walnuts in the crumble tended to burn very easily, so I swapped them for oats which I love for their nutty crunchiness.
Bramley Apples are fabulous for this recipe. For anyone who is unlucky enough not to be familiar with them, they are a specialist cooking apple grown in the UK. When cooked, they hold their shape until touched, whereupon the apple pieces dissolve into a froth of apple snow, literally melting in the mouth (if that is possible with hot food). If you’re unable to find any Bramley Apples, use a sharp dessert apple such as Braeburn, which will hold its shape and not release too much juice – which means you might want to reduce/omit the cornflour in the filling. Also, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C, 160°C Fan and cook a little longer.
Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie
50g unsalted butter
80g strong, tasty cheddar
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
ice water to mix
35g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
zest & juice of ½ a lemon
2 Bramley Apples
2 green chillis
20g light Muscovado sugar
60g plain flour
Pinch of salt
40g steel rolled oats
- Cheese Pastry
- Put the lard, butter and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Roughly chop the cheese and add to the mixture.
- Pulse 3 or 4 times to break up the cheese.
- Slowly add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together in a ball.
- Tip out the pastry and knead a few times until smooth.
- Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove from the fridge and roll out to about 5mm.
- Grease two 20cm loose-bottomed tart tins and line with the pastry. Alternatively, make individual tarts.
- Mix the sugars, cornflour and spices in a bowl and set aside.
- Grate in the lemon zest and stir.
- Peel and de-seed the chillis and chop finely.
- Peel, core and chop the apples into small slices.
- Put the chopped apples into a bowl and toss in the lemon juice.
- Scatter over the chillis.
- Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture over the apples and chillis and stir gently to combine.
- Divide the filling between the tarts.
- Put the butter, lard, sugar and flour into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the oats.
- Sprinkle over the apple fillings.
- To Bake
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
- Put the tart tins onto a baking sheet, preferably one with a raised edge, as there might be some overflowing of juices.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the baking sheet around 180 degrees and bake for a further 15-20 minutes. For individual tarts, begin baking the same way, but cook for just 10 minutes after turning the baking sheet.
- Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
- Serve warm with pouring cream