23 December 2011

Cranberry & Orange Tartlets (or how to use up a few leftover Cranberries)

Still sizzling from the oven.  Yum!
This recipe is one of those happy little accidents that only happen when leftovers come together.

You see, I had some Cranberries left over from the Red Cabbage & Cranberries and although I'd used some in the Cinnamon Plums & Cranberries, I still had a fair amount left over.  They were taking up space in the fridge and were starting to look a bit sad, when lo and behold, I was left with half a block of shortcrust pastry left from the Cheese & Bacon Pasties (which you've yet to hear about).

I spent about half a day thinking about what combination of flavours I could use in a small tartlet, or maybe some turnovers (except that would really need puff pastry, so that wasn't such a good idea).

I knew I had a little of last summer's Rhubarb Jam in the fridge and thought that would make an interesting combination as the jam was very sweet and would be a good foil for the tart Cranberries.  However, upon further investigation, the Rhubarb Jam had died in the meantime and was threatening to grow fur - so that went into the bin.  Fortunately, it was only around a half a cupful, so no real harm done.

However, that had got my brain working along the lines of "juicy things that are already sweet" lines - and I remembered the orange marmalade.  It was a medium marmalade, so not too bitter, with some peel but not too much.  However, I didn't really think the marmalade on its own would be sufficient to sweeten the oh-so-tart Cranberry.  I didn't want to use granulated sugar, as it would have potentially roughened the texture too much.  I briefly pondered honey, but rejected that as being another flavour too many.  The answer, lay in the Golden Syrup pot.  Being smooth, sweet and relatively unflavoured, it was perfect.

So, I rolled out the pastry and cut out 12 little tart bases (hubby having turned the pan cupboard upside down, looking for the tart tray!).  I put the oven on to pre-heat and got a small saucepan out.

Cooled - and rather less dangerous to life & limb!
Into the saucepan, I put the cranberries (minus a few that were particularly suspect), two dessertspoonfuls of marmalade and a big dessertspoonful of golden syrup.  I heated the contents on a gentle heat until the cranberries just started to show cracks in their skins and the marmalade was all dissolved.

I felt it was important to partially cook the cranberries before putting into the tart cases, as they are hard little fellows and the 15-20 minutes cooking wasn't (potentially) enough to soften them sufficiently.

As it turned out - I was right.  I popped a spoonful of Cranberries into each tart case and followed up with a little of the orange sauce - but not too much, as I didn't want them to overflow everywhere and I knew that the Cranberries were very likely to release more juice as they cooked.  Into the oven they went, while I did the dishes.

15-20 minutes later and out they came.  The Cranberries were cooked perfectly and although the contents had overflowed a little, I had no problem getting the tarts out of the pan - so long as I didn't wait for them to cool down!  If you let them cool down, I suspect you'd need a jackhammer to get them out.

They are a gorgeous little mouthful.  Two bites big, they release their tart Cranberry flavours onto your tongue, whilst the slightly savoury note from the shortcrust pastry provides a stalwart backbone from which to launch.  Very quickly, the orange of the marmalade breaks through, followed by a hint of syrup.  By then, your mouth is watering and you're ready for the next one!

I have to admit that we didn't stop to do anything fancy with them by way of a dessert, but I know they'd be fabulous with ice cream, cream, creme fraiche, greek yoghurt or even custard.  Anything except a piece of stilton, I'd say!  Although, thinking on ....


Ingredients :

250g shortcrust pastry
200g (approx) fresh cranberries
2 tbsp medium cut orange marmalade
1 tbsp golden syrup.

Method :

1.  Pre-heat your oven to 180deg C/350deg F/Gas 4.

2.  Roll out the pastry fairly thinly and cut out 12 discs to fit inside your tart tins.  Press them in gently, making sure that no air bubbles remain underneath.

3.  Place the cranberries, orange marmalade and golden syrup into a small saucepan and heat gently, until the cranberries are showing signs of their skins cracking and softening a little.  Do not cook until they are soft & squishy - you want them to just demonstrate that they're starting to cook.

4.  Place a spoonful of cranberries (without sauce) into each tart shell, then go around and place a quarter of a tablespoonful of sauce into each tart shell.

5.  Put the tarts into the oven to bake for 15 minutes, then have a look at them.  If the pastry appears to be fairly pallid still, leave them to bake for another 5-10 minutes, but keep an eye on them as you don't want the cranberries to burn.  They are done when the pastry has turned a golden brown.

6.  Remove the tarts from the tin as quickly as possible while they are still hot - try not to get any of the sauce onto your fingers, as it is at an evil temperature and will burn - or they will weld themselves to the tart tin.  Place each tart onto a cooling tray and wait patiently until they're cool enough to handle safely!

7.  Fight off the ravening hordes, whilst attempting to serve.


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