The family often come for a meal at the weekend, usually Sunday, which is lovely. We always like to make it special in some way, as families do on Sundays. I keep it easy though. Rather than a formal ‘starter’, I’ll put out bowls of olives and almonds; I’ll buy some good focaccia or fougasse and put it in a bread basket with some taralli or long bread sticks. I might make a dip but often buy some excellent Israeli hummus (Yardens) from Waitrose. This is what we did tonight.
The main was going to be a barbecue, as we’ve done for the past few weekends since the days have lengthened and grown warmer. It hadn’t been a particularly warm day and there’d even been some rain, but my son Jonathan wasn’t deterred and perhaps in answer to his positive spirit, come suppertime, the clouds began to loosen their hold on each other, blue sky glowed through the gaps and the sun made a faint but welcome appearance.
Lamb kofte had been requested, but as Waitrose lacked organic lamb mince when I went in first thing this morning, I grabbed packs of the venison burgers we had last week (which are great) and a pack of organic pork mince. Four-year-old Freddie had requested sausages; Jonathan had tried to convince him kofte were sausages. But Nonna (the grandsons call me Nonna – Italian for grandmother) would make sausages; real pork sausages! I followed my own recipe which I posted a few years ago (click here) and they were a great success.
For ages I’d been thinking of making individual open-crust apple pies. I used to make large open-crust pies when my kids were small but hadn’t for a long time. I fancied making them in a small size because it’s such a nice way to serve a dessert. In the end, while keeping the spirit of the ‘open-crust’ I decided to bake them in muffin tins so they were deep with plenty of filling, and I’d add some streusel topping.
Deep-filled Apple & Blueberry Tartlets with Streusel Topping – Makes 12
- 225g plain flour
- 150g butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 whole egg (plus one extra for brushing pastry cases before cooking)
- 425g dessert, eating apples
- 100g blueberries
- 1 dessertspoon caster sugar
- 60g flour
- 45g demerara sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 30g chopped almonds
- 50g melted butter, cooled
Make the pastry first. This is an old Gary Rhodes recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry (very slightly adapted) that I’ve been using for years (probably at least 20!). It’s very reliable – and good. I like a rich shortcrust pastry. Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process until they come together into a ball. Gather the ball together and wrap in some clingfilm and put in the fridge for about quarter of an hour or so while you prepare the other ingredients.
Peel and core the apples; chop into fairly small cubes (about 1cm). I always use dessert apples to cut down on the amount of sugar that needs to be added. Put the apple pieces into a saucepan over a low heat with a very small amount of water (a couple of tablespoons) and cook, stirring frequently, until starting to soften but still holding shape. Tip in the blueberries and mix together. Take from the heat and set aside.
Make the streusel. Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon and chopped almonds together. Add the cooled melted butter. Put in the fridge for just a few minutes while you prepare the pastry and filling.
Roll out the pastry on a well-floured surface. Cut circles of pastry (I used a mug) and carefully lay each one in a greased cup in the muffin tin and press gently into the shape. Cut 11 more to fill the muffin tray. Lightly brush the bases with beaten egg to help stop the juices soaking through the pastry as it cooks, so the pastry stays crisp.
Spoon the apple and blueberry filling (draining off any residue liquid) into the pastry shells. Now crumble over the streusel topping. It’s a slightly strange mix; a bit doughy and solid, but it will crumble enough to sprinkle on top. It’s just a little topping; you don’t need to cover the apple (we’re not making little crumbles).
Put the tin into a preheated oven (200C/Fan 180/Gas 6) for about 25 minutes, or until nicely golden. Remove and allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
Then carefully lift each out onto a cooling rack.
I prepared these a bit ahead of time. Come suppertime, while I was roasting little new potatoes in the oven and making a big salad, Jonathan barbecued the burgers and sausages.
When it came to dessert, I warmed the little tartlets through and served them with clotted cream.
They were wonderfully delicious; the pastry rich but light and slightly crumbly. The filling – which needs some pre-cooking as the tartlets won’t be in the oven for a long time – was perfect; not too sweet and the fruit cooked but holding shape. The lovely nutty streusel on top made them all the more special. They were a great hit and I’m pretty sure I’ll be making them again soon!