Saturday, March 24, 2007

A lot of excitement...

My life is in the jet stream at the moment and thoughts come tumbling out of my head at a million miles an hour.

Among other things, my life has lately included the following:

  • Stepping onto the property ladder

We're about to fall heavily into debt - expecting to exchange later this week, we're soon going to own our own little spot on earth. And I cannot wait! Anything to get me out of the current horrible kitchen! Speaking of kitchens...

  • Optomen TV has asked me to create some video blogs

Soon to be shown on UKTV Food, a new show called Market Kitchen is going to be aired on a daily basis from the Borough Market. They're teaming up with a number of UK Food Bloggers to feature a segment called Food Tube. My submissions so far can be viewed at D.D.TV.

  • Cupcakes are coming out of my ears!

And I'm loving them! A friend of mine and myself have started a new little company called Daydream Cupcakes. Our first venture out will be at a local farmers' market in Impington on the 21st of April. I've also got a new blog up and running mostly detailing my recipe development but it will soon show ordering details and where they will be available... Hopefully (fingers crossed) on a regular basis.

  • Allotment anticipation

Another friend of mine, her husband and I have all gone in for an allotment together! Today we spent 3 hours turning and digging the soil. The dirt is excellent with few brambles and loads of busy worms. We're hoping to have the spuds in soon - once we've worked out how to chit them. I dream of eating fresh vegetables on the day of picking and relishing in the therapy of it all. Have I gone mad?

All this and more - a milestone birthday for Dan is about to be celebrated, a writing competition has been entered into, a review of a local fish & chip shop has been submitted to Olive magazine and work is going through a busy time.

And I'm still enjoying myself! Well, why wouldn't I? Life is fabulous and things are looking good. Now I'm off to bake a carrot cake to celebrate... ;)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Lady Grey & Vanilla Custard Tarts

Although custard was not a huge feature of my childhood, the moment I poured the hot milk into the whisked eggs for this recipe I was taken back in time. Perhaps to a time when I was 13 and had just had my wisdom teeth removed and all I ate was custard. Or perhaps to an extremely hot Christmas day where a hot pudding with custard was served that was just almost unbearable.

The vanilla recipe comes from a Donna Hay supplement that arrived with this month's Living etc. The little tarts stood out amongst the other very pretty recipes, but seemed more beautiful yet more simple at the time that I knew I would be making them soon.

Almost on a whim and really at the very last minute, I split the cream into two saucepans and broke a lady grey teabag into the cream and let both pots heat slowly. Now I certainly would never advise doing two custards at once. Time was not on my side and I had to work extremely quickly so that the custards would not heat too quickly nor cool down too fast.

These little bites were moorish and delightful. I would certainly make them again for an elegant afternoon tea. Indeed, the mouthful of lady grey custard was just as comforting as a mug of tea.

These daffodils are growing just outside our front door and are a sweet reminder that Spring is well into it's dawn.

Lady Grey Custard Tarts

3 sheets of filo pastry (big enough to cut 12 rounds from each)
50g of butter, melted
Caster sugar for sprinkling

1 1/2 cups single cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tablespoons cornflour
2 tablespoons water
2 lady grey teabags

To make the custard, place the cream, vanilla bean and lady grey tea leaves (removed from the bag) in a small saucepan over medium heat until the cream is hot but not boiling. While it is heating, whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until thick and creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornflour and water to combine.

When the cream is just under boiling point (I used Nigel's instructions), strain the custard through a fine cloth and sieve into a pouring jug. Extract as much liquid as possible. Slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg yolk, add the cornflour and return the custard to the saucepan that has been rinsed. Stir over low heat for 2 - 3 minutes or until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Cover and refrigerate.

I found that if the custard went too lumpy I had to whisk fast and hard to return it to a smooth consistency. The original also called for 3 egg yolks, but I think this was a bit excessive and unnecessary, so kept it down to two.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Brush one pastry sheet with the butter and sprinkle with the sugar and top with another pastry sheet. Continue layering the pastry with the butter and sugar.

Use an 8 cm round cutter to cut out 12 circles from the pastry. Press the pastry into 12 x 25ml lightly greased mini muffin tins. Bake the cases for 5 - 6 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. To serve, spoon the custard into the cases. Makes 12.

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