In this episode I was talking about a blue cheese pastry I’ve fallen in love with and a pistachio meringue cake I’ve made a couple of times now for very special occasions, including a friend’s micro-wedding this week!
Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Tart
Recipe by Anna Glover in Good Food’s Vegetarian Christmas, 2020
For the pastry:
- 100g wholemeal flour (strong wholemeal and spelt wholemeal both work, too)
- 100g plain/ all purpose flour (if using spelt wholemeal make this strong white flour)
- 50g walnuts
- 100g cold cubed butter
- 1 egg (I found it works with both UK medium/ US large and UK large/ US extra large)
- 50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante
- A pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 3 UK large / US extra large eggs, 1 separated, egg white beaten (total weight c. 180g)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 leek, sliced
- 125ml double cream (I’ve found I can use 150ml [ie. a whole small tub] and avoid waste)
- 1 ripe pear, halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 50g hard crumbly blue cheese, such as Stilton or Gorgonzola Piccante (I usually use more)
- 40g walnut halves (I usually use more)
- Butter for greasing the dish
- Salt and pepper
To make the pastry: Put both flours and the walnuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add the butter and a pinch of salt, then pulse again until the mixture resembles damp sand. Add the egg and cheese and pulse together again until the mixture comes together in a ball. Add tiny drops of cold water to bring it together, if needed. (KH: I find if I use a medium egg I need to add water, but don’t if my egg is large.) Wrap the dough and chill for 30 minutes.
Blind baking: Heat the oven to 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F. Grease a 23cm tart dish with butter. Roll the pastry out on a work surface lightly dusted with plain flour to the thickness of a £1 coin (3.15 mm). Place into the dish, using the rolling pin as a transportation device if needed. Patch any cracks with off-cuts and press into the dish. Press the edge with the back of a knife. Prick the base with a fork, then line with a scrunched sheet of baking parchment and then baking beans/ dried pulses. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment. Glaze the inside of the pastry case with the reserved egg white. Bake for a further 10-15 minutes until light golden and dry.
For the filling: Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan and fry the seasoned leeks until soft. Leave to cool. In a bowl or jug, whisk the two whole eggs, egg yolk, cream and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the pear slices in the base, then spoon the leeks on top. Scatter in the cheese and walnuts. Pour in the egg and cream mix. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set with a slight wobble in the centre.
Blue Cheese Pastry Straws
Make the pastry, as above, and roll out into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Scatter half with 50g blue cheese. Fold over and roll out again. Cut into strips. You could twist these if you like or cut them into fancy shapes. The pastry is very short so you may need to repair cracks now and then. Freeze. Brush with beaten egg. Bake at 200C / 180 fan / gas 6 / 390 F for about 25-30 minutes. Best served with slices of fresh pear.
Raspberry and Pistachio Meringue Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Yes, this IS a lot of pistachios and very expensive to make, which is why I only do it for very special occasions! It’s incredibly delicious and not overly sweet. The meringue is chewy rather than crispy.
For the meringue layers:
- 225g caster sugar
- The whites of 6 UK large/ US extra large eggs (c. 240g egg white)
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 400g pistachios without shells
- 1/4 tsp salt
For the filling:
- 50g white chocolate (75g if you want to drizzle on top)
- 1 tbsp vanilla paste
- 250g mascarpone (fridge-cold)
- 250g double/ heavy cream (c. 50% fat) (fridge-cold)
- 50g icing sugar
- c. 250g fresh raspberries
To make the meringue layers (I like to do this the day before):
- Roast the pistachios in a preheated low oven (325F / 160 C / 140 fan/ gas 3) for about 15-20 minutes until toasty all around. You may want to give them a stir halfway through to ensure an even roasty-toastiness. Leave to cool. Leave the oven on at the same temperature.
- Grease, line and grease again four 20cm/ 8 in round cake tins. (You need to grease the parchment paper in order for half the meringue to not just be stuck on there.) If you only have two of these tins, no worries – you can bake the meringues in batches, or you could draw out circles on to parchment, place on baking trays and grease the circles.
- Blitz 340g of the pistachios with 100g of the sugar in the food processor until pretty finely ground, while very much avoiding taking it too far and making a nut butter. (Reserve the remaining pistachios for decoration.)
- Whisk the egg whites, 125g of the sugar and the cream of tartar to the edge of stiff peaks.
- Gently fold in the ground pistachio mixture, using a metal spoon and doing so in about 3 goes.
- Dollop gently into the tins, level (an offset spatula is very useful here) and bake for about 20 minutes in the same low oven (160 C / 140 fan / 325 F / gas 3).
- Leave to cool completely, then very gently transfer to a very airtight tin and leave overnight.
- Grind the reserved pistachios in the empty food processor bowl (you don’t really need to wash it out). Place in an airtight container and reserve for assembly.
For the filling – do this the morning of or a few hours before serving:
Melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. Whisk fridge-cold mascarpone and fridge-cold double cream with 50g of the white chocolate, vanilla paste and icing sugar. Place a meringue layer on the bottom and spread the cream with an offset spatula (or you could pipe it). Place another meringue layer and spread/pipe another layer of cream. Place the third meringue layer and spread/ pipe another layer of cream. Then put fresh raspberries on top of this. Top with the final meringue layer and a final thick layer of cream, then put more raspberries on top of this. Drizzle with the remaining white chocolate, if you like. Finally, scatter with the reserved ground pistachios.