Let me introduce you to the most delicious thing I’ve eaten so far this year: the Portuguese custard tart, or a pastel de nata if you want to be fancy about it. The discovery that there was a Portuguese café about three minutes down my road that sold them for 80p a pop stopped my Saturday right in its tracks. More moreish than your average Bakewell and a bit less in-your-face than a cupcake, my childhood memories are punctuated with these perfect little pastries thanks to yearly family holidays spent in the Algarve.
The first bite was delicately flaky, then soft and chewy as the pastry gave way. The second sank into the cool, creamy custard, scorched on top and accented with a faint egginess below. And the aftermath? An afternoon spent savouring a haze of sunny memories.
My advice would be to find a bakery that sells them and scoff one still warm from the oven, but if you’d like to try your hand at making them then lucky for you the ever-useful Jamie Oliver included a jazzed-up version of them in his recent 30-Minute Meals extravaganza. Recipe below…
Jamie Oliver’s Quick Portuguese tarts with orange caramel
Makes 6 tarts
Plain flour, for dusting
1 x 375g pack of prerolled puff pastry
125g (4½oz) créme fraîche
1tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
5tbsp golden caster sugar
Preheat oven to 200C/ gas mark 6. Dust a surface with flour. Unroll the pastry, then cut it in half so you have two 20cm x 20cm (8in x 8in) squares (put one in the fridge for another day). Sprinkle over a few pinches of ground cinnamon, then roll the pastry into a Swiss-roll shape and cut into 6 rounds. Put these into 6 of the holes in a muffin tin, and use your thumbs to mould the pastry into the holes, so the bottom is flat and the pastry comes up to the top. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.
Spoon the créme fraîche into a small bowl. Add the egg, vanilla paste or extract, 1tbsp golden caster sugar and the zest of 1 orange. Mix well.
Take the muffin tin out of the oven, and use a teaspoon to press the puffed-up pastry back to the sides and make room for the filling. Spoon the créme fraîche mixture into the tart cases, and return to the top shelf of the oven. Set the timer for 8 minutes.
Put a small saucepan on a high heat. Squeeze in the juice from the zested orange and add 4tbsp golden caster sugar. Stir and keep a good eye on it, but remember caramel can burn badly so don't touch or taste.
Pour some caramel over each tart (they'll still be wobbly). Put aside to set.