Today is Mother’s Day in Ireland, or to give it the old title, “Mothering Sunday”. Traditionally celebrated in our home by me being given free license to cook what I want in the kitchen as I have a very able sous-chef (my husband) and visiting/commemorating the mothering figures in our lives. While yesterday was St Patrick’s Day we didn’t mark it in the traditional way of going to watch a local parade or cooking dishes on a green theme. Instead we went to a family reunion in memory of some close family members who are no longer with us. It was a refreshing way to spend St Patrick’s Day and probably just as well because I believe we would have been very wet if we had gone to the parade.
However I am signed up to participate in the Very Good Recipes St Patrick Challenge and so I did need to cook something a little green this week.
There is little in season in the outdoor kitchen garden by way of fruit but rhubarb is just coming into season. The rhubarb plant we cut from is very young and very pink right now. I’m almost afraid to cut from it as I really want to make some chutney and perhaps some wine later on in the Spring. I did get 5 small stalks on Friday and while I was cutting them I noticed a thyme bush nearby and caught the light fragrant scent on the air. The thought struck me then that perhaps the two ingredients would be a good combination providing the thyme wasn’t too overpowering and this is where this recipe started. The thyme flavour lingers in the background and breaks up the sweetness of the tartlet.
The individual components are easily prepared in advance and this means you can easily have a show stopping desert by doing a little bit of work and assembling towards the end. For the sweet pastry I used a recipe from the Carton House Cookbook for the first time but changed the method slightly to save on time. It was incredibly easy to make and gave a delicious crisp crust and I have already made a second batch for the freezer to see if it will keep for a week or so. If it does then I will keep my stock topped up because it was that good. There’s no reason though why you can’t use a shop bought sweet pastry or even shortcrust.
To make the pastry:
- 350g plain flour
- 250g butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- Kitchen processor (if you don’t have one then a large bowl & a wooden spoon are fine too)
- Cling Film
- Space in the fridge
- Rolling Pin
- Flour for dusting
- Clean, smooth worksurface
- 6 Tartlet tins (preferably with removable base)
- Greaseproof paper
- A bag of dry rice
- 1 baking tray
I have found that the trick to making good pastry is to keep everything as cold as possible. So on this occasion it’s perfectly fine to take butter straight from the fridge and cut it into small cubes. If using the processor just put all the ingredients in at once and “buzz” until they are combined and beginning to pull into a ball of dough. If not, rub the butter into the flour in a large bowl using your fingertips until you have a fine breadcrumb like texture, then add the rest of the ingredients until the mixture begins to hold in a doughball.
Remove the pastry from the processor (or bowl) and lightly work for 30 seconds to make sure you have a single piece of dough. Roll into a thick sausage shape and cover tightly with cling film then leave in the fridge for at least 90 mins. Once the pastry is firm and chilled, remove, section into 6 pieces then roll to approximately 2cm thickness then line the tartlet cases. Return to the fridge to chill for another 30 mins.
Remove the tartlet cases from the fridge and heat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade. Cut the greaseproof paper into 6 small squares slightly bigger than the tartlet. Scrunch each piece of paper into a ball then unwrap. Line each case with the paper then fill the paper with dried rice making sure that no rice actually touches the pastry. Transfer the tartlet cases onto a baking tray making sure they are evenly spaced and not too close to one another. Bake in the oven for 30 mins. Remove the tray and leave to cool for an hour before removing the pastry from the cases.
For the filling:
- 5 sticks of fresh rhubarb
- 2 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of caster sugar
- 1 sheet of leaf gelatine
- 2 bowls (1 filled with cold water, 1 empty)
- 1 large saucepan
- 1 wooden spoon
- 1 bowl of cold water
- 1 tablespoon
- 1 sieve
Place 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. While the water mixture (syrup) is heating chop the rhubarb into equal sized pieces, mine were approximately 1.5cm high. Pick 5 leaves of fresh thyme from the sprig. Once the syrup is simmering add the rhubarb and picked thyme leaves. Simmer for 10 mins only as you want the rhubarb to keep its shape and flavour.
After 10 mins remove the saucepan from the heat and using the sieve strain the cooking liquid into the empty bowl. In the bowl with cold water place the gelatine leaf to soak for 5 mins. Arrange the cooked rhubarb in the pastry cases. Remove the gelatine from the cold water and squeeze any excess water from the leaf. Then place into the warm cooking liquid and stir until it is dissolved. This makes a lovely rhubarb jelly. You now pour the jelly over the arranged rhubarb in the pastry cases until it reaches the top. I did this over a cooling rack on the draining board in case of any spillages.
Leave the cases to set. It normally takes about 30 minutes or so. These tarts last about 2 days if kept in a cool dry box in the fridge but honestly they don’t last that long in our house. Serve with fresh custard or like I did with some freshly whipped cream.