Monday, October 12, 2009
I’m the kind of person who usually has several projects on the go at once, always flitting from one to another to keep from getting bored. But inevitably, I get distracted and often leave things half finished when I move on to the next new thing. It seems that I’m very good at planning, but not as good at actually executing all my ideas. Does this sound familiar? An example – over a year ago, we had the idea to cook a meal from a particular cuisine decided upon by closing my eyes and pointing randomly at a world map. Portugal was the lucky winner, and I threw myself into the research, fascinated by the culture. I had grand plans of making Feijoada, Broa Bread and Piri Piri chicken but I could never seem to motivate myself to take the plan to the next step.
Until I had tons of leftover puff pastry from the Daring Bakers challenge last month, and decided to finally try out a Portuguese recipe I had been wanting to try for all this time – Portuguese tarts, or Pastéis De Nata. A delicious egg custard tart that was believed to have been created by Portuguese monks in the 18th century as a way to use up egg yolks, since egg whites were used to starch the nuns’ habits.
They have long been a favourite of mine, though it can be hard to find a good one sometimes. I hear the best ones in Sydney are found at Sweet Belem in Petersham, but have yet to try them. I must say that my home-made ones were pretty spectacular, some of the best I’ve had. I really loved the creamy custard and the speckled caramelised surface with the buttery and flaky pastry. I added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the custard, although often it’s sprinkled on top. And so with dessert done, maybe one day, I’ll get around to a making a full Portuguese meal. One day…
Recipe adapted from Bill Granger
• 3 egg yolks
• 115g caster sugar
• 2 tablespoons cornflour
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 230ml cream
• 170ml milk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 300g puff pastry, home made or store bought
1. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. Put the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and cinnamon in a saucepan and whisk together. Gradually whisk in the cream and milk until smooth.
3. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
4. Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling wrap to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool.
5. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Cut the pastry dough sheet in half, put one half on top of the other and set aside for 5 minutes. Roll up the pastry tightly from the short end and cut into 12 x 1cm rounds. Lay each pastry round on a floured surface and roll out until each is 10cm in diameter.
6. Press the pastry rounds into the prepared muffin tin. Spoon the cooled custard into the pastry cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry and custard are golden. Leave the tarts in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.