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Three berry entertaining desserts


What a weekend of Provençale FEASTING.

Six hungry mouths and twelve helping hands chomped, chopped, whisked and wiped our way through a series of gourmet home-cooked meals. BBQ'd duck and rabbit, perfectly ripe cherries, cheese platters, indecent amounts of morning pastries, succulent tomato salads, sweet and savoury tarts, chargrilled asparagus, and, évidemment, litres of rosé wine. Everything grown or produced locally and consumed with relish.

We were like a well-oiled machine: BC whizzing up his signature artichoke and parmesan crostini, GS on the whiskey sour production line, DS manning the wood-fire BBQ, SAS as official bowl licker and SS running away with the sous-chef-kitchen-fairy prize.

I was on a two pudding per day production line. Heaven. Sure, things are easier when there's a mulberry tree laden with fat, finger-staining berries by the back door. I'd planned pistachio meringues with artisanal ice cream for our first mulberry medley, and GS's spot-on suggestion of a crumble helped make a dent in the remaining glut. Mum's old faithful apricot and almond tart recipe (coming SOON) went down a treat one night, as did this classic and juicy strawberry tart.

So, here you have three berry-heavy puddings for estival entertaining. I was cooking for six, but each of these could have happily served a few more (slightly less greedy) people, perhaps as part of an al fresco spread, or for a party. A couple of hours prep on Thursday evening to make the meringues, crème anglaise and pastry meant I could throw everything else together in the flurry of the moment.


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Strawberry and crème anglaise tart

About 45 minutes active time, plus resting/cooling time

dessert / showing off / vegetarian / party / spring / summer / baking / brunch

You can make the pastry and the crème anglaise in advance here. I would assemble the tart reasonably last minute if you can.

For the pastry:

* Butter - 60g, cold, cut into chunks

* Flour - 120g

* Sugar - 1 tbsp

* Egg - 1

For the crème anglaise:

* Egg yolks - 5

* Sugar - 5 tbsp

* Milk - 1 and 2/3 cup

* Vanilla - 1/2 pod

* Strawberries - 1 large punnet (c. 500g)

* Optional - 2 tbsp strawberry or apricot jam

1 25cm tart tin, preferably with a removable base.

Start with the pastry. Pulse the butter, flour and sugar together in a blender until you have an even breadcrumb texture. Add the egg and pulse to combine. Add 1 tbsp of cold water and keep pulsing until the dough comes together in one ball. You might need to add a touch more water. Gather the dough together in a tight ball and squish it slightly to make a disk (shaped like a camembert, for example). Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least half and hour.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease the tart tin with a little butter.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to fit the tin. Keep flipping and flouring the dough as you go. If the dough has been in the fridge for more than an hour, you'll need to let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before rolling it out.

Carefully lay the pastry in the tin. Pinch up and along the sides, taking care to remove any air bubbles between the tin and the pastry. Prick the base with a fork a couple of times.

Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until just golden. Remove and set aside.

To make the crème anglaise, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar in a medium sized saucepan.

Pour the milk into a separate pan.

With a small knife, split the vanilla pod lengthways and scoop the seeds into the milk. Add the pod to the milk and heat gently until the milk is just simmering.

Pour the hot milk slowly into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Then heat this mixture over a low to medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring slowly all the while. This is where you'll need a little patience. Keep heating and stirring until the mixture thickens slightly - you're looking for a thick double cream texture. Strain the mixture into a bowl, cover, and leave to cool.

When you're ready to assemble the tart, take the green tops off the strawberries and slice them thinly. Pour the custard into the pastry case and spread into an even layer. Lay the strawberries on top in concentric circles.

If you're serving the tart within a couple of hours, I wouldn't usually bother with the jam glaze. If you are making it in advance, gently heat a couple of tbsp of jam in a small pan, then brush over the strawberries using a pastry brush. This will keep the strawberries looking shiny and glossy.

Pistachio meringues

Takes 10 minutes, plus oven time, makes 12 meringues

dessert / easy peasy / quietly smug /vegetarian / picnic / party / gluten free / dairy free / ready in a jiffy / baking / date night / perennial

Meringues, berries and something creamy make for a classic, simple and delectable dessert. Easily portable for idyllic picnics in the summer sun. Crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside.

* Shelled pistachios - 70g

* Egg whites - 4

* Lemon - a squeeze

* Fine caster sugar - 230g

Preheat the oven 120 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.

In a small blender, pulse the pistachio nuts to a course powder. It doesn't matter if the texture is a little uneven.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean, large bowl until soft peaks form when you lift out the whisk. Add a squeeze of lemon, and gradually whisk in the sugar. Fold in the nuts.

Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Each meringue should be about 8cm in diameter. Swirl the tip of a skewer or a sharp knife around the top of each meringue: when you lift out the tip it should leave a pretty little peak behind.

Bake in the oven for an hour and a half. Leave in the oven, with the door closed, to cool.

Serve the meringues with berries of your choice and top quality cream, yogurt or ice cream.

Mulberry (or blueberry/blackberry) crumble

Serves 6, takes 5 minutes plus oven time

dessert / nothing fancy / easy peasy / vegetarian / ready in a jiffy / date night / party / spring / summer

​We tried to find out why fresh mulberries are so difficult to buy commercially, considering how prolific mum's tree is every year. No joy. If you are lucky enough to have a supply of mulberries, give this a go. Otherwise, blueberries or blackberries in season would work just as well.

* Mulberries (or blueberries/blackberries)- 500g

* Butter - 80g, softened and cut into chunks

* Sugar - 1/2 cup

* Flour - 1 cup

* Rolled oats - 1/2 cup

* Cinnamon - 1/2 heaped tsp

* Salt - a pinch

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Lay the mulberries in a medium oven dish.

In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together with your fingers into a cookie dough texture.

Sprinkle the crumble over the fruit evenly.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Serve with ice cream, cream or crème fraiche.


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