One of the most beautiful things about spring is the colours that start to emerge in parks and gardens. The end of the drabness of winter is heralded by the arrival of yellows, purples and reds – in flowers, fruit and vegetables. During the past few weeks at the Victoria market, punnets of beautiful red strawberries have lined the aisles of produce. They have been very reasonably priced – huge and tasty – and a perfect way to launch into spring.
I adore eating strawberries for breakfast – I wash them, halve them and place them in a bowl with a few tablespoons of freely squeezed orange juice. This is the way my mother used to make them . She would sometimes add a squeeze of lemon juice and a tablespoon of caster sugar to balance out the lemon. They are then placed in the fridge overnight (or at least an hour). In the morning they are cool from the fridge but have a rich tangy flavor that goes beautifully with some plain full cream organic yoghurt. Sprinkle on a few finely chopped mint leaves and breakfast become a fresh spring garden.
My next favorite way of having them is in a tart. Italians love eating tarts, especially with fresh fruit jam on them. They will often eat them for breakfast (well – this includes me!). I use crumbly buttery short crust pastry, a layer of strawberry jam and lay luscious fresh strawberries on top. A dollop of creamy yoghurt or if you are being very decadent, a big dollop of mascarpone – absolute perfection.
The short crust pastry is versatile and I make it in a food processor. It can be used many ways including with all types of fresh fruit, including with rhubarb, which you can read about in older blog post here or with peaches (here). You will need a few hours to make this tart as the pastry needs some resting time.
Fresh strawberry tart
125 g butter, room temperature
30g icing sugar
240g plain white flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
150 ml good quality strawberry jam
1 punnet of strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
Yoghurt or mascarpone to serve
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (fan forced). Line a 22cm diameter tin with foil (I line base and sides).
Place butter and icing sugar in a bowl and process/beat until creamy. In a bowl, mix together the 240g flour and pinch salt. Add the the butter mix and process/beat until it is a crumbly texture -which takes about a minute. Add the egg and process/beat until the mixture comes together – less than a minute. Remove the mixture and put the lot on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place another sheet of plastic wrap over this and using a rolling pin, roll the pastry into a disc and enclose in the plastic wrap. Place in fridge for 45 minutes.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it between the two sheets of plastic so that it about 3mm thick. You will have enough to cover the base and sides of the pie plus some left over to put a lattice on top. Line the base of the prepared tin with the pastry and blind bake the pie shell for 10 minutes with pie weights (or dried beans/rice) and for 5 minutes with the weights removed. Don’t forget to put baking paper under the weights and also prick the base in several places with a fork. The base should be cooked through and a light golden colour. Set aside on a wire rack to cool.
Whilst waiting for the shell to cool, roll out the remaining pastry to 3mm thick and cut into strips. I used a fluted pastry cutter to make a pattern on mine. You can cut the strips as wide or narrow as you like. Mine were approximately 1.5 cm. Wrap the strips in plastic wrap and place back in the fridge, making sure they remain flattened.
Once the cooked tart shell has cooled, place the jam in the shell in a thin layer and lay down the strawberries in a circular pattern. Then lay the prepared pastry strips as a lattice. Bake for 30 minutes until the latticed pastry is golden. Place on a wire rack and allow to cool in the tin.
Serve at room temperature with mascarpone or good quality plain yoghurt.