puff pastry tartlets
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Puff pastry – party food rescue, the solution for when you crave pizza-type food but can’t be bothered to make the real thing, an indulgent en croute for meats and fish.
I’ve never tried making it at home, I’m ashamed to admit.
The experience of producing home-made croissant and Danish pastry which I have scored on my bedpost was traumatic enough. Rolling out the butter. Encasing the butter in impossibly stiff dough. Rolling it out while butter happily peeks through the layers of pastry and sticks mainly to the worktop, rather than the dough. Folding and folding, pure Spinal Tap. Trying to roll out thinly the finished thing only for it to maliciously spring back into a plump cushion. Admittedly, the pastries and croissants were divine but a bit prawn-like – tasty but ugly.
Safe in the knowledge that even the great chefs say there’s nothing wrong in buying good quality puff, I use it for all kinds of lovely concoctions: sausage rolls, asparagus tarts, spinach pies (if I can’t be bothered to fight with filo), salmon en croute or cheese puffs.
These little numbers here are cut out in rounds and baked in a pie tin. It’s very important to pierce the bottoms with a fork – otherwise they’ll puff up evenly and simply eject the filling. And the offcuts can be dipped in grated parmesan and baked as well.
puff pastry tartlets
- I’m not giving quantities here as they’ll depend on how many tartlets you want to make; adjust the quantities for the fillings accordingly.
- a sheet of all butter puff pastry
- uncooked frozen prawns, thawed
- a couple of cloves of garlic
- frozen spinach, thawed
- blue cheese, Saint Augur, Danish Blue or similar
- a pinch of grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- Gruyère or Cheddar cheese, crumbled
- a rasher or two of smoked back bacon, cut into small pieces
- beaten egg, to glaze
You’ll need a pie/pudding tin or tartlet cases. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
Unroll the puff pastry and cut out discs with a round pastry cutter, slightly larger than your pie/pudding tin and insert them into the holes in the tin by pressing very gently from the edges. Chill until ready to fill and bake.
For the prawn filling: chop the raw prawns into small pieces and the garlic cloves quite finely. Melt the butter in a skillet, add the garlic and cook gently for a minute. Turn up the heat and add the prawns with plenty of salt and pepper. Stir fry them for a minute until just starting to turn pink.
For the spinach filling: melt the butter in a small pan, squeeze as much moisture out of the spinach as you can and chop it roughly. Add to the pan with the butter, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook covered for a few minutes on medium heat. Crumble in the blue cheese, stir well and cook covered for further 5 minutes. If there is still some liquid in the mixture, take off the lid and cook, stirring frequently until almost all of the moisture evaporates.
Remove the pastry lined tin from the fridge and pierce the bottom of each tartlet with a fork – this will stop the pastry puffing up all over and ejecting the filling. Brush the bottom and the rim of each tartlet with beaten egg. Spoon the prawn and the spinach filling generously into the pastry nests.
For the bacon and cheese: crumble the cheese on the bottom of the pastry nests, then arrange the bacon pieces on top.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges of the tartlets are golden. Let the tartlets rest for a few minutes in the tin, then scoop them out with a spoon.