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EGGING ON DREAMS OF A HOLIDAY; PPaasstteell ddee NNaattaa ((ffoorr 44)).

Byline: bryan webb

AT the moment I have a craving to get away for a few days in the sunshine and taste the food of the sun. But at this time of year, and with the economy as it is, we all have to knuckle down and get on with life.

But it did not stop me from making one of my favourite tarts, pastel de nata - Portuguese style custard tarts.

They remind me of a few great holidays Susan and I had in Lisbon and also London, where a deli on the Fulham Road sold incredibly light and delicious ones. Every time we had a wild night out in London a group of us always ended up at the famous bar Italia on Frith Street in Soho to finish the night with a large espresso and a pastel de nata.

The tart comes filled with custard - crme brule-like in consistency - and caramelised in a puff pastry case.

They were created more than 200 years ago by Catholic sisters at Jeronimos Monastery at Belem, Lisbon. Back in 1837 Casa Pasteis de Belem was the first pastry shop outside the convent to sell the creamy tarts. Now you'll find them in shops owned by Portuguese descendants all over the world.

Egg or custard tarts vary across the globe. I still remember the tart or slices my mum would bake with the really sweet icing topping. In France they have large, delicate egg tarts in every caf, while the classic lemon tart is a take on the egg tart. In the Far East they're also popular, introduced in Hong Kong in the 1940s by cha chaan tengs - western cafes and bakeries to compete with the dim sum restaurants. When Chris Patten was the Governor of Hong Kong he was very fond of the egg tarts sold at the Tai Cheong bakery and thus theybecame known as Fat Patten's Egg Tart.

Pastel de nata are easy to make. You don't need to make your own puff pastry as shop bought is fine, especially one made with butter. The tarts are good warm, sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar then glazed with a blow torch. Have fun making them and dream along with me of a holiday in the sun.

. Bryan Webb is owner/chef of Tyddyn Llan, Llandrillo, near Corwen ingredients 200g puff pastry 4 egg yolks 50g caster sugar 25g plain flour few drops of vanilla extract or a vanilla pod 300ml milk a little melted butter icing sugar to glaze method. Preheat oven to 200 C. Roll out pastry large enough to cut eight circles 10.5cm in diameter. Line 8 holes of a muffin tray with the circles, place a disc of parchment paper in each and fill with baking beans.

Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for another 5 minutes. If they rise just push the pastry back down.

When cool remove onto a tray. Mix eggs, flour and sugar, heat milk with the vanilla pod split length ways, or vanilla extract. Pour heated milk over egg mix, whisk well, pour back into the pan and cook over a low heat until it starts to boil.

Strain through a sieve into a bowl and allow to cool. Spoon the custard into the pastry shells and pop back into the oven for 4/5 minutes.

Dust with cinnamon and icing sugar or caramelise the tops with icing sugar using a cook's blow torch
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 9, 2009
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