Apricot tartlets

We have a big country kitchen table I have always dreamt of having – filled with an abundance of fruits, flowers, vegetables, lots of kids drawing, dogs lying under and delicious home-cooked food. I get very inspired just by looking at the table, and today, I had to do something with the beautiful apricots. I ate a very light lunch and felt like having something sweet, yet tangy, so I made little apricot tartlets. They are so summery and I love the colour!

I always have a home-made pastry dough in the freezer – it’s so easy to make and convenient to store. All you have to do in de-freeze the dough, roll out little circle for the tartlet pans, slice the apricots in half, throw some sugar, mix crème fraîche, 1 egg and sugar and voilà! These are probably the easiest tartlets to make, and they are delicious.

Ingredients: (makes approx 6 tartlets)

14 apricots (cut into four, pits removed)
250 grs shortcrust pastry (home-made or bought in store)
50 grs caster sugar
20 cl crème fraîche
1 egg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
20 grs icing sugar
6 tartlet pans

Easy shortcrust pastry

250 grs plain flour
125 ml water
175 grs butter
1/4 tsp salt

Mix water with salt in a large bowl. Slice butter into cubes. Mix all ingredients together, ‘working’ the dough 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, wrap with cling film and place in the fridge for at leat an hour.

Apricot tartlets

Pre-heat the oven 180° celsius.

Rinse the apricots and pat dry. Cut them in four and remove the pits. Sprinkle with sugar.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut off 6 circles slightly larger than the width of your tartlet pans. (I use a round-tipped knife). Line each tartlet pan.

Whisk crème fraîche, egg, cinnamon and sugar until smooth. Pour a base into each tartlet (approx 1.5 cm deep). Place apricot slices on top. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes. When ready, take out from the oven and place on a wire tray. Leave to cool 10 minutes before serving and sprinkle with icing sugar.

I had a lovely moment by the rose garden, having a coffee, tartlets and writing some recipe notes!

Crème Vichyssoise

Everybody loves good ‘comfort food’, classics such as macaroni cheese, mashed potatoes or fried noodles are high on the list. But what is the next best thing to comfort food? I call it continental holiday food. It is the kind of dish you would order when you are by the pool, from room-service, or simply in a café. The excitement of being away, in a new environment, slightly jet-lagged, triggers happy and carefree feelings. Everything tastes better when you are on a holiday. So here are my two contenders: For Asia, it’s nasi goreng (fried rice with egg), and for the rest of the world, it’s a crème Vichyssoise.

I have always loved ‘crème Vichyssoise’. This chilled potato and leek soup, topped with a generous amount of cream and chives, is my idea of ‘travel’ happiness. This French/ American soup was born in New York, created by a French chef at the Ritz-Carlton by the name of Louis Diat. One summer day, chef Diat was homesick and thinking fondly of his grandmother in his hometown Montmarault, near Vichy. He was inspired to make her delicious potato and leek soup, just like the one she made when he was a child. His brother and he added cold milk to make the soup easier to drink. It was one of his fondest childhood memories, reminding me of one of the best ‘food’ characters ‘Anton Ego’ from Ratatouille (Pixar). This story warms my heart.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

7 leeks, (white bulb) sliced into rings
5 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 onion, sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 liters of chicken or vegetable stock
50 ml white wine
25 grs butter
salt and pepper to taste
100 ml crème fraîche

Slice onions, potatoes (quartered) and leeks (into fine rings). In a large pot melt butter over low heat, add onions and fry for 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and leek and continue frying on a low heat for 10 minutes. Deglaze with the white wine, reduce for 2 minutes, then add the chicken or vegetable stock. Add thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir well, and when it starts to boil, lower heat, cover pot and continue to cook for 20 minutes.
When ready, let the soup cool, then mix in the food processor until smooth and liquid. You can chill the soup in the fridge for 20 minutes or more. I also enjoy this soup served warm. It’s up to your taste.
Chop chives (finely). Add a tablespoon of crème fraîche, sprinkle with chives and serve.