Fun with summer fruits

Tasting

TASTY TARTLETS Children will enjoy helping to make these simple crowd-pleasers. 

Seasonal berries bring sweet sunshine into any dessert

Food
Redmond Cabot

Irish producers are currently filling the shops with their lovely soft summer fruits: strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, gooseberries and more. Select wisely though – as your tastebuds know well, there is a whole range of sweetness levels available, varying according to climatic conditions, as well as when they were picked and how they are stored. There’s nothing worse than hoping for sweetness and getting blandness.
Any of these berries can be used to make jam, which I love doing. I try to use less sugar than the traditional equal weight between fruits and sugar. I usually squeeze in fresh lemon juice for pectin, or add peeled rinds during the boiling and remove them later. To know when your jam is ready, the trick is to get a small drop of it congealing or setting well on a saucer with a splash of water. If the drop just dissipates into the water, you’re in trouble – it won’t set. Try adding more sugar or boiling for longer.
To make a lovely, beautifully simple dessert accompaniment, grab some ripe strawberries, pick off their green tops and blend the fruit with a couple of spoons of crème fresh, a squeeze of half a lemon and a heaped tablespoon of sugar (of course!). This goes particularly well with all pastry desserts.

Making promises
Adults often make promises they cannot keep, dealing with children is no exception. I did just that while out shopping recently with our youngest, Louis. Whilst trying to spark an interest in food other than ice cream, pizza and pasta (he is presently on TWO ice creams a day), I picked up a tray of raspberries and suggested, “Hey why don’t we make something fun with these?” He agreed, and they went into the basket.
Two days later, they were still in the fridge, and they were starting to get on my nerves. I knew I had to keep the promise, but all sense of invention and creativity had left me. Necessity being the mother of invention, I spied some shop-bought pastry that needed using up. Pastry custard tartlets with raspberries… of course!
We rolled out the pastry, dug out an old scone tin, greased it lightly, and filled each of the moulds with cut pieces of rolled pastry – in this case puff pastry. We mixed up an impromptu custard, and after a quick blind bake, filled the depressions. Then we dropped whole raspberries into the custard, and popped them in the oven. They turned out great.
Louis loved the process, and enjoyed the look and smell of them, but within five minutes it was time for his evening ice cream, and home-cooking lost out severely to Mr Magnum! I ask you….

Homemade raspberry and custard tartlets
These are best enjoyed on the day of baking, as these tarts tend to ‘wilt’ a bit if left longer.

What you need

  • 250g ripe raspberries
  • 1 scone or muffin mould tray
  • 1 shop-bought pastry of your preference
  • 700ml milk
  • 5 free-range eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • Vanilla essence

What you do
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to your desired thickness, cut the case shapes using your eye to judge the size, and lay one over each of the muffin or scone moulds, gently pressing down to line them.
To make the custard mix, first separate the eggs yolks and beat these well with the sugar. Warm your milk in a pan to a tepid temperature, then whisk in the egg and sugar mixture. Add a couple of drops of vanilla essence – or you may swap this for ground nutmeg for exotic fancy (EASY on the nutmeg). Pour this mixture into a jug with a lip.
I pre-baked the pastry cases for five mins in a pre-heated 180°c oven just to seal the pastry; this may not be necessary.
Use the jug to pour in the custard mixture into the pastry cases, almost level to the pastry edge. Drop two or three raspberries into the custard in each mould, cook in the oven until you see a very slight dome on the custard. Start checking for this after around 15 minutes – they could take ten minutes or so longer, depending on your oven and the size of your moulds. Once you spy a slight doming, take them out. Beware: if the custard dome is too big, it spells trouble. The custard is over-cooked and will sink down again. Practice makes perfect… well, better!
After you are happy the custard is cooked stiff enough through, remove and let cool in the tray before removing. You can munch them as they are with a good mug of tea – the risen custard around the islands of pink raspberries in the pastry casings looks gorgeous and very visual. If you want to go really fancy though, pile some more raspberries on top of each cooled tartlet, dust with icing sugar and garnish with some mint.

— Redmond

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.