Renato’s strawberry and almond tart

Renato's strawberry tart

Renato’s strawberry tart [Photo: James Bianchi]

Renato’s luscious tart has a crispy biscuit base spread with an almond paste and topped with a layer of old fashioned custard and lots of fresh strawberries. Watch out for Strawberry Festival next weekend.

Strawberry and Almond Tart

I use a deep 12 inch tart dish
Heat the oven to 175 C

For the Sweet Pastry:
320g flour
100 g Butter or Margarine
5g Baking Powder
80 g Sugar
70g Water
Few drops Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Cinnamon
Pinch Ground Cloves
Zest of an orange and lemon
Sieve flour and baking powder. Rub in butter until mixture is like fine breadcrumbs.
Add vanilla extract, citrus zest, ground cinnamon and cloves and mix in well.
Dissolve the sugar into the cold water. Make well in the middle of the dry ingredients and bring together. Place in cling film in fridge for at least half an hour.
Grease the tart dish and I usually dust it lightly with flour. Roll out pastry and line the bottom of the dish. Dock the pastry with a fork and place in fridge again for at least 15 minutes.
I usually like to bake the pastry case blind for about 10 minutes to give it more texture. Renato skips this stage for his tart. It is just a matter of preference.

For Almond filling:
I like a thick almond layer at the base of my tart, however if you prefer a thinner layer, reduce the ingredients by half and you will have enough mixture to spread at the bottom and give the same flavour.
200g Pure Ground Almonds
150g Sugar
3 Eggs
Zest of half a lemon and half an orange
Few Drops Vanilla Extract
Pinch Cinnamon Powder
Pinch Cloves
Combine all the dry ingredients and mix in the eggs with a spoon. Spread the mixture on the bottom of the tart dish and bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 175 C. Leave to cool for two minutes then press the top of tart gently with a metal spoon and allow to cool completely before adding the custard mix.

For the custard topping:
1 large can Evaporated Milk
500 g water
200 g sugar
Rind of half an orange and half a lemon
Separately, 100 g cornflour mixed in 150 g water
And of course the strawberries, as many or as few as you like
Gently heat the first four ingredients and bring to a gentle boil stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the cornflour mix and stir while bringing to a gentle boil. Remove from heat immediately and carry on stirring. Pour over the almond filling in the tart and leave it to cool down slightly.

Decorate with strawberries before it cools down completely so that they will set in the tart. Place in fridge. To serve you can either dust lightly with icing sugar for a more rustic look or for Renato’s finish brush with an apricot glaze made up of 100g Apricot Jam, 20 g Water and 15 g sugar.

Infused Water: Orange, Rose Peppercorn and Basil

One of the many beautiful churches in the Capital of this small island at dawn today …

When I returned home after my very early walk in the Capital City this morning, I drank a couple of glasses of refreshing infused water which I make daily and refrigerate overnight. I use lidded glass spaghetti jars as they fit perfectly in the shelf of the fridge door… This is a totallly natural drink if you are a fan of flavored waters.

To make this, you will need:

Two oranges, I used blood red ones but if not available the regular ones are fine
Rose peppercorns
Fresh basil leaves
A large bottle of still mineral water

Squeeze one of the oranges and chop the other one into small segments with the skin on. Crush a few rosé peppercorns to extract the full flavor and leave a few of them whole. On the island they grow abundantly but you can find them in most stores. Tear a few basil leaves roughly, do not chop up with a knife as they will discolor. Fill up jar with mineral water and stir everything into it. Cover with lid and put in the fridge overnight if possible, or at least for 6 to 8 hours. I usually top up the jar twice during the day with water and keep two jars in the fridge at any one time so that I always have the infusion available to drink.

Thirst quenching, full of flavor and a natural source of Vitamin C.
I stopped drinking carbonated and low calorie artificial drinks a year ago and limit them to a treat once in a while ….


Quick weekday meal: Roasted Vegetables …

Muffins … A healthier version packed with goodness …

I have started making muffins regularly with a variety of fresh fruit…. They are ideal for breakfast or a light lunch with a pot of fresh yoghurt. I cut down the sugar content and I add a different fresh fruit combination each time I bake.

This is the standard recipe I use and add fruit, nuts and other flavours:

60 g unsalted butter
280 g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50 g honey
1 egg
250g (ml) skimmed milk

This makes 12 muffins.

Preheat oven to 180 C

Melt butter on low heat and put aside. Beat the egg in a separate bowl.
Sift the flour and baking into a large bowl.
Stir in the sugar
Add the milk to the melted butter and mix into the flour mixture.
Add the egg. Draw in the dry ingredients without overmixing.
Place muffin cases in muffin tin and put in a spoon of batter in each case.
Spoon in the fruit of your choice and see below for instructions and finished photos.
Top up with plain batter mix and sprinkle with more of the fruit mix.
Bake for about 20 minutes.
The muffins will be quite soft when you take them out of the oven because of the fresh fruit but they will firm up when they cool down.

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins. Finely chop up two apples with the skin on. Squeeze some fresh lemon and add a teaspoon of cinnamon. When they are cooked garnish with some thin apple slides. I griddle mine while I am waiting for the muffins to cook as I think they look very attractive.

Lemon and Sesame Seed Muffins. Add the grated rind of a lemon and two tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds into the standard muffin mix. Grate the rind of another lemon and mix with another tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds. Sprinkle half of this misted pre baking and keep the other half for garnishing after you take them out of the oven.

Strawberry Muffins. You will need a large tub of strawberries. Keep 6 aside for garnish and chop up the rest into small pieces. Add to the muffin mix and bake. When cool, cut the remaining strawberries in half and use to garnish the muffin. I like to keep the stem on for garnishing…

Peach and Vanilla Muffins. Chop up two peaches with skin on into small pieces. Add to muffin mix, add a few drops of vanilla extract and bake. Keep aside a third peach for garnish and shop into thin slices and arrange on muffin after it cools down.

Orange and Pistachio Muffins. Grate the rind of two oranges. Remove rind and segment the oranges. Chop roughly. Add half to the muffin mix together with the grated rind and finely chopped pre baking add the rest of the mix on top. Garnish with orange segments and a light sprinkle of finely chopped pistachios.

Almond and Cranberry Muffins. Add two spoons of ground almonds and two spoons of dried cranberries to the muffin mix. Sprinkle some roasted slivered almonds pre baking.

Optional for all muffins. You can lightly dust with some icing sugar before serving…..

It’s sunny and glorious today on this beautiful island in the Mediterranean …

A light Pasta Lunch… Healthy Macaroni Bolognaise

Hazlenut and Thyme Honey Tart…. Celebrate Father’s Day !

Quick weekday meal: Roast Chicken with Sage and Caramelised Oranges


This is a quick, delicious weekday recipe that looks and tastes wonderful without taking up a lot of your time !

1 chicken
2 chopped apples with skin on
2 oranges chopped into segments with skin on
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Fresh Pink peppercorns (optional)

To reduce cooking time when i am in a hurry, I ask my butcher to half the chicken lengthwise and lay them out in a way that looks very attractive. If i am having guests and cooking for large numbers i lay two or three chickens near each other on a baking tray and you can still produce a healthy and home cooked meal in under an hour.

Lay chicken halves near each other on a lightly oiled tin on a bed of chopped apples, oranges with skin on, onions, garlic and fresh sage. Garnish with a slice of orange and sage. Drizzle with olive oil, salt pepper and fresh pink peppercorns if you have any.

Cook in a hot oven as required. in my family, we like our chicken to have a crisp skin but you can adjust cooking time according to your preference.

Garnish with more fresh sage and pink peppercorns before serving and you can take the whole roasting tray on the dinner table as it is.

Serve with freshly steamed vegetables.

This will also make an effortless Sunday lunch !