Pear Tarte Tatin

I had time to cook, and think about cooking, this past weekend for the first time in about eight weeks. Life has been just a bit busy with family, work and university.

I have grand illusions when it comes to cooking Tarte Tatin. However, I made an apple tarte tatin earlier this year and it was a bit of a disaster. Never one to give up,on Sunday I made Pear Tarte Tatin from the July 2012 issue of NZ Cuisine. It was really good!

I cooked the pears a couple of hours before I needed them and left them in the pan. This meant there wasn’t much to do before putting the pan in the oven. Instead of serving the tart with zabaglione, I served vanilla bean custard. The recipe says it serves 6 but it serves 8 quite easily. I will definitely make this again – it was delicious.


Pear Tarte Tatin

from NZ Cuisine Issue 153

300g butter puff pastry

5-6 pears, peeled quartered and cored

juice of 2 lemons

50g honey

25g butter

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry to a 27cm-diameter circle, 5mm thick (or to a size that is big enough to overlap your frying pan). Refrigerate until required.

Toss the pear quarters together with the lemon juice.

Melt the honey and butter in a 25cm oven-proof frying pan then arrange the pears in the frying pan in a single layer, peeled skin side down. Add any juices from the pears then cook until any liquid disappears and the pears begin to turn golden brown. Put the pastry circle on top of the pears, tucking the pastry around the edge of the pears inside the frying pan.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes then turn out on a serving plate.

Serves 6-8

Passionfruit Mascarpone Tart

The idea for this tart evolved at the markets on Saturday morning with my son’s girlfriend. We both love lemon meringue pie; my son is not a fan. He loves passionfruit pannacotta; I’ve made it enough lately. So we decided on passionfruit tart, especially since passionfruit are plentiful at the moment.

This recipe is a combination of a few recipes. The pastry is the easiest ever, a melt and mix recipe from “At Home in Provence” by Patricia Wells. I didn’t add almond essence – I hate the stuff – but feel free to add 1/8 teaspoon if you like. And I used vanilla sugar instead of vanilla extract as I generally have a jar of vanilla sugar on hand, using a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s I saw on a pilot Jamie Oliver television show I saw ages ago. All you do is blend together a split and scraped vanilla bean and about 650g of caster sugar, pour through a fine sieve and store in a jar. Voila!

The filling is based on the lemon tart recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s “The Cook’s Companion” with passionfruit juice replacing the lemon juice and mascarpone replacing the cream. Next time, and there will definitely be a next time, I’ll use more passionfruit juice, so that’s what I’ve specified in the recipe.

Passionfruit Mascarpone Tart

Serves 8


125g unsalted butter, melted

90g sugar (I used vanilla sugar)

1/8 teaspoon vanilla pure vanilla extract (unless using vanilla sugar)

Pinch fine sea salt

180 g plain flour


6 large eggs

150 ml passionfruit juice (approx 11 passionfruit, strained)

Pulp of 1 passionfruit

250 g caster sugar

180 g mascarpone

For the pastry, preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 23 cm fluted tin with removable bottom.

In a large bowl, combine the butter ad sugar and stir to blend with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to form a soft biscuit-like dough. Do not overmix or let it form a ball.

Quickly transfer the dough to the centre of the tin. Using the tips of your fingers, evenly press the pastry along the bottom and sides of the tin. The dough will be quite thin.

Place the tin in the centre of the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffy and set, about 12-15 minutes.

Turn oven down to 160C (320F).

For the filling, whisk all ingredients together and pour into the cooked pastry shell. Put the tart on a tray and place in the oven. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, until almost set.

Cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes. When cool, dust with icing sugar.

Mini Chicken and Leek Pies

I have the most fantastic grandmother. This year she will turn 94. Quite an innings.

My little brother and I, along with 2 of my cousins, regularly spent a week or more at my grandparents after Chrismas each year when we were growing up. We had the best time. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised two things: our parents actually sent us to my grandparents so they could have a break and not everyone had grandparents like mine.

If there’s one thing my grandmother taught me it’s not to worry about things you can’t change. Of course, I wish I could remember this more often than I do.

My grandmother is (finally) getting old. Last weekend I went to visit for 5 nights – to take my grandmother for a drive or two, do some shopping and, of course, cook. This was not a big sacrifice – I walked along the beach every morning, found a terrific new (for me) coffee shop and caught up with an old school friend I hadn’t seen for 10 years.

During the 5 nights I was up north, I cooked my heart out. On our drive to Tamborine Mountain I bought some incredibly fresh rhubarb at a roadside stall. My grandmother was delighted – it is one of her favourite foods, especially served with rice custard. I left my grandmother with 45 single serve meals in her freezer which pleased her no end.

So this past Sunday I wasn’t cooking for the usual four, but for my grandmother instead.

I am most definitely a Bill Granger fan. A favourite from his first book “Sydney Food” is his recipe for chicken and leek pies. The recipe makes 6 individual pies but they are way too big for my 4’7″ grandmother so I made the pies in a muffin tin. The recipe made 17 small pies – they worked really well and are the perfect size. Other than omitting the cayenne pepper and substituting the tarragon with thyme, the recipe is Bill’s. Once cooked and cooled, I froze them in individual zip lock bags, ready to defrost and heat when required.

Mini Chicken and Leek Pies

adapted from “Sydney Food” by Bill Granger

1/2 cup plain flour

1 tsp salt

600 g chicken breast fillets, cut into 2cm dice

1 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 leeks, white part only, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

125ml ( 1/2 cup) chicken stock

125ml ( 1/2 cup) cream

2 tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp thyme leaves

4 sheets ready-made puff pastry

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Combine flour, a few grinds of black pepper and salt in a  bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat, shaking off any excess flour. Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until light golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Return pan to a medium heat, add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add stock and cream, simmer gently for 5 minutes, then return chicken to pan and cook for 1-2 minutes further. Remove from heat, season and stir through the parsley and thyme.

Cut pastry sheets to fit the base, sides and tops of the holes of a muffin tin. Spoon filling into pastry cases and brush edges with egg yolk. Place tops on pies and crimp edges with a fork. Brush tops with egg yolk and pierce the top of each pie.

Preheat oven to 190C. Place pies in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and puffed.