Friday, March 09, 2007

By colour, by season

February is such a grim month. By nine o’clock most mornings the sky was pewter grey; by nine thirty the heavens had opened. Underfoot everything turned to mush. I didn’t feel much like writing, so I just opened another Swedish crime novel and stoked the boiler.

According to meteorologists, Spring starts on 1 March. And lo, a brisk warm breeze has arrived to dry things out, and the sun is up for a few practice bouts. There are daffodils in a hundred different shades of yellow and the world is back to Kodachrome.

At Christmas I was given this great book by Allegra McEvedy. “If you eat by colour by season” she says “you will naturally be giving your body what it needs at that time of year.” I have always thought that this was true, but Ms McEvedy, and Georgia Glynn Smith’s lovely photographs, put it most persuasively. This is a robust, unfiddly book, brimming with flavour and good humour. I found I started to bookmark the pages I wanted to return to: Berber salad, dandelion salad with goats cheese and polenta croutons, soft cheese baked with quince in vine leaves. And this delicious sounding recipe for Portuguese custard tarts.


1 x 12 large or 24 small muffin tray

1 packet frozen puff pastry defrosted

275ml milk

Zest of 1 orange

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out and reserved

4 egg yolks

150g white sugar

1 ½ tbsp plain flour


Preheat oven to 220ºC/425ºF/gas 7

Grease muffin tins with butter.

Roll out pastry to 3mm thick and line moulds

Heat milk in a non-stick pan with orange zest and vanilla pod (not seeds)

In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until pale, then stir in flour and vanilla seeds

Just before milk boils remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve into a jug. Discard zest and pod.

Pour milk on to egg mixture, whisking all the time.

Fill pastry cases to brim

Cook for 15 mins for small muffins and 25 mins for regular size.

They will come out of the oven looking like Yorkshire puddings and will collapse a bit, but that’s ok. The entire house will be scented with orange and vanilla, and it will be the real thing, not that Christmas candle ersatz aroma.

Leave to cool a bit, because they are VERY HOT when they come out of the oven!

Allegra McEvedy's Colour Cookbook. Photography by Georgia Glynn Smith

published by Kyle Cathie Ltd


Pille said...

June - pasteis de nata are some of my favourite pastries! I had them in Lisboa few years ago, and luckily my regular coffee joint in Edinburgh sold them too:)
The recipe sounds like a treat! There's a trick to using the puff pastry, I believe. You need to roll the pastry up into a cylinder, very firmly, and then cut into discs, which you use to line the tins. (Does that make sense?)

June said...

Hi Pille
That's an interesting way to do it, and it would work I'm sure. Not really knowing what I was doing I rolled out the pastry and cut it into circles with my biggest cutter, pulling it up the sides of the moulds to fit. I then put it in the fridge to set while I got the filling together. It's a relaxing no rush recipe and it turned out pretty well I think.

Pille said...

I bet they were delicious, June! The few times I've made them, I did just like you - to a great result:) Then I read from here on eGullet the instructions re: pastry. And indeed, the pastries I had in Edinburgh had that circled puff pastry cases. I haven't tried this version myself yet, but will soon. The eGullet pictorial (link above, hope it works) is pretty good.
I may combine that with Allegra's recipe for filling:)

June said...

Thank you so much for that. I'm not sure that there would be much difference with the pastry, but I'm glad to have found out that I should have dusted them with sugar!

June said...

I think I should adjust the final cooking timings too, so they come out with brown spots. I wonder if Allegra gives rather high an oven temperature?

lindy said...

I'm making these for sure June-they are lovely-sound splendid, just my kind of thing. I am chanting softly, "I do not need another cookbook...I do not need..."

June said...

Lindy, I'm laughing! But have a look at this cookbook in a shop - it is actually quite lovable. And do make the tarts, but first check out eGullet, because that's how they ought to look - paler and with spots. Mine taste delicious but I think I should have got them out sooner.

June said...

Actually, I've just been thinking about what Pille (above) and egullet say about rolling up the pastry and cutting it into spirals. This, I realise, is a very good idea because it means you have no waste, no leftover puff pastry.

Susan in Italy said...

Are the pasteis de nata seasonal for now? They look really rich to bolster you in cold weather.

June said...

Hi Susan
Allegra has these tarts in her winter section, and when I came across them I felt suddenly enthused. She serves them with brandied cherries, to give a taste of summer in the drab winter months, but even she says the brandied cherries are not entirely necessary!

Joanna said...

Hi June, I've been making your spelt bread, and this is to say how delicious it is ... I'm interested to see you using a proving basket, because I keep thinking I can manage without one, but longing for one (I do not need another kitchen gadget, I do not need another kitchen gadget ...). You can get them in Divertimenti, too, only not so many shapes.

Please please please tell me where you get your fresh yeast? Impossible here (Oxfordshire), at least, I have found it so.

Best wishes,

lindy said...

Tagged you for a meme.

Hope you don't mind. Feel free to ignore, of course.

June said...

Hi Joanna
I thought I had lost you...I chose "publish" and supposed you had commented on a spelt post...silly me. Ah ha...fresh yeast...
Do you by any chance have a branch of Tesco anywhere near you? If you go to the bread department and ask nicely they will give you some fresh, gratis and for nothing. I find personally that the blokes give me a bag full of crumbs and the women give me a big slice but you may find differently. Anyway - it is a boon that the Great God Tesco bestows upon us, his meagre subjects, and I take full advantage of it. Usually the servants of the Great God give me far more than I actually need, as I am not supplying the bread needs of a large community, so I freeze what I do not need and it lasts pretty much forever. Bon chance!

ChrisB said...

Hi June that sounds an interesting philosophy. I wondered if you had seen this cook book. Sam has just sent me a copy I believe it is due to be published in UK soon.

Christina said...

Oh, I'm so glad I found your site. These look wonderful, and I can't wait to try making them myself.

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