While it’s easy to use bought pastry, it is really not very tricky to make yourself. I usually turn to this quick shortcrust pastry; adding hard herbs such as rosemary or thyme or spices like smoked paprika, nutmeg and mixed spice can also add a little interest. If I’m making a sweet pastry I add a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar to the mix and I might add some flavourings such as cocoa, cinnamon, orange or lemon zest or some vanilla.
I prefer to use a food processor to blend the butter with the flour, then once I’ve added the liquid and the mix is starting to clump I’ll bring the dough together on a bench. It is important to chill the dough once it has been made so the gluten in the flour can relax – which means that the dough won’t shrink in the tin. I also chill it again after I’ve put it into a tart tin (or I may freeze it at this point) to blind bake from frozen.
Freeform apple & berry tart
Make a sweet version of the pastry with 2 tablespoons icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste. Roll out as above onto a sheet of baking paper. Put onto a baking tray and chill in the fridge while you prepare the fruit. In a bowl put 3 cored, peeled and chopped apples or pears with the juice of ½ lemon,1 cup frozen berries and 2 tablespoons sugar and toss to combine. Leaving a 5cm rim around the edge of the pastry, scatter over ¼ cup ground almonds (to soak up any fruit juices) then pile on the fruit. Fold over the edges of the pastry, brush with milk or cream and scatter with 2 tablespoons demerara sugar. Bake at 170°C for 40-45 minutes until golden.
Pork red curry mince pie
Fry pork mince until brown then add onion, garlic, ginger and a couple of tablespoons of red curry paste. Add chicken stock and simmer gently until tender. Add some vegetables to the mix if you wish. Season with lime juice, fish sauce and a little coconut milk if desired. If necessary, thicken with a slurry of cornflour and water. Cool before putting into an unbaked tart, top with either more shortcrust or flaky pastry, cut slits to allow steam to escape, brush with milk or egg wash and bake until golden.