This pastry is a revelation ... and, for those of you who think pastry can only be made with butter: this is a French recipe, a proper recipe. There are egg yolks and oil, so it's still not something to eat every day, but this is a real breakthrough for those who can no longer eat butter. And for those people who think that our low-cholesterol way of eating is somehow second best - this is really delicious and worth a try in its own right. Also, if you're not a natural pastry chef - and I never was - this is quick and easy, a definite improvement on bought shortcrust. All the virtues, then.
The recipe was discovered by clever Anna, in Geraldene Holt's French Country Kitchen, one of my most favourite of all cookery books. I've cooked and cooked from this book (but stupidly failed to spot this pastry), more than any other I own, I should think, and I've never been able to understand why Geraldene Holt isn't better known: she's at least as good as Jane Grigson, and considerably better than a whole host of well-regarded food writers. She writes out of real experience - in this book, her many years of summer living in France.
This recipe for shaken hot-water pastry comes from Mme Chalendar, who, GH notes, sells earthenware and stoneware kitchen pots in Lamastre.
1 tbsp caster sugar (leave it out if you're making something savoury)
1/2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp mild salad oil
1/2 beaten egg
3 tbsp hot water
Put all the ingredients into a lidded plastic box and shake it for at least a minute. When you take off the lid, you will find a lumpy mixture; form it into a ball with your hands, and roll it out on a floured surface. GH says this is enough for a 24cm tin, but I have made this a number of times, and find that it is enough for a larger tin, and rather too much for a 24cm tin, because the pastry is better when it is very thin. You can use this straight away, no need to rest it.
If you are making a fruit tart, here's another trick, and I'm not sure if it come from Mme Chalendar or GH: mix 20g flour with 20g sugar and sprinkle it over the pastry base. Then add the stoned fruit halves (raw). The flour and sugar mix will effortlessly thicken the fruit juices to make a delicious sauce.
This tart needs 30-35 minutes in a moderate oven, 190C. When it's done, glaze the fruit with a little melted jam - I used the rose petal jelly I made last month, but anything would do, even a little sugar syrup if there's no jam in the house (especially if you have vanilla- or lavender-flavoured sugar). The first time we made this, we forgot all about glazing it in our excitement - it's the one in the photographs, so you can judge for yourself whether it's worth the bother, because glazing is fundamentally a cosmetic exercise. We didn't bother with the flour and sugar that first time, which was a mistake, as I think you can see in the photograph.
We ate this tart by candlelight in the garden. It's quick and easy, the sort of food you can cook ahead, either for a party or just because you feel like it.
This is my entry for this month's Heart of the Matter ... fruit and berries is the theme for September ... and Ilva at Lucullian Delights is hosting. The idea is to build a bank of heart-friendly recipes on the Heart of the Matter website, a resource for everyone to use, and one which would have been very useful to me in the days after my husband's heart attack. There's more information about how to submit here, and some guidance for those of you worried about heart-healthy eating.
Field Trip: WSU Discovery Garden - Monday of this week found me in the car heading north, Seattle suburbs giving way to open fields, farmhouses, barns: the Skagit Valley. About an hour north...
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