For the pastry
- 500g/1lb 2oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 100g/3½oz icing sugar
- 250g/9oz butter, cubed
- 1 free-range egg yolk
- splash ice-cold water, if needed
For the crème pâtissière
- 500ml/18fl oz milk
- 6 free-range egg yolks
- 40g/1½oz plain flour
- 125g/4½oz caster sugar
- a little icing sugar, to dust
- ½ jar apricot jam
- 400g/14oz fresh fruit, such as raspberries, pineapple, strawberries and grapes
For the pastry, sift together the flour and icing sugar in a mixing bowl until well combined. Tip in the butter cubes and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the beaten egg and work together with your hands until the pastry comes together. You may need to add a splash of ice-cold water if the pastry is too dry. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least ten minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and peel off the cling film. Roll the pastry out on a well-floured surface to a thickness of about 5mm/¼in.
Cut circles of the pastry out with a cutter that’s only slightly bigger than a set of 10cm/4in tart cases. Carefully line the miniature tart cases, ensuring that you overlap the edge a little. Alternatively, lay the pastry on the top of the barquette tins and roll a rolling pin over the tart case to cut them to shape – this should cut the pastry exactly the same size as the case. Then press the pastry into the tart tin with your fingers.
Prick the base of the pastry with a fork. Press a square of aluminium foil bigger than the tin against the bottom to make the shape of the tin. Then place the foil into the pastry case and fill the case with ceramic baking beans. Repeat with the remaining pastry and cases.
Place all the cases in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until cooked and crisp all the way through. Remove the beans and foil lining and set aside the cases to cool on a wire rack. Then remove from the tins and set aside.
For the crème pâtissière, heat the milk in a large pan until it is just boiling.
Thoroughly whisk together the egg yolks, plain flour and sugar in a bowl. Pour the milk into the bowl containing the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and cook over a medium heat while stirring constantly. The mixture should thicken as it just comes to the boil.
Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool. At this point sprinkle over a little icing sugar to stop a skin from forming.
Pass the jam through a sieve into a clean bowl to make it smooth. Heat up the apricot jam with two tablespoons of water and leave to cool.
Spoon a little of the cooled crème pâtissière into each one of the tart cases. Top with whatever fruit you wish before brushing lightly with the cooled apricot jam.
How To Make the Best Pasta Salad Without Mayo
The Best Pasta for Pasta Salad
The best pasta for pasta salad isn’t actually elbow macaroni, which is susceptible to sogginess. Instead choose a small, short pasta like fusilli or even penne. Dry pasta — not fresh or frozen (sorry, tortellini!) — will hold up much better to dressing, storage, and stirring.
Boil the pasta to al dente as recommended by the manufacturer in nicely salted water. Then drain and rinse, but don’t “shock” the pasta as it tends to water log the pasta and rinse away flavor. Instead, have your pasta salad’s dressing ready to go when the pasta is done and dress the salad soon after rinsing. The pasta will absorb more flavor this way.
An Oil-Heavy Vinaigrette Creates a Creamy Texture
Have you ever heard the saying, fat is where the flavor’s at? It is entirely true. Fat, be it oil or mayonnaise, is a vehicle for flavor. Instead of dressing your mayo-free salad with more vinegar or vegetables or herbs to get flavor from it, add more oil. Soft cheese helps, too (more on that below).
For this pasta salad, make a vinaigrette that is 50/50 acid for oil. Then coat the pasta with half of the vinaigrette. This half is going to be absorbed by the pasta and also seasons the vegetables. The second half should go on relatively close to serving so that the pasta doesn’t absorb the oil and become simultaneously soggy and dry.
Adding Vegetables? You’re Gonna Have to Cook Some
Raw vegetables are delicious, but in pasta salad raw vegetables can be jarring. After a bite of supple pasta, crunchy raw broccoli just doesn’t jive. This isn’t true of all vegetables — finely diced red onion, cucumbers, and tomatoes get a pass, but your pasta salad will be improved tenfold by either cooking the vegetables or using jarred vegetables.
- Raw: cherry tomatoes, cucumber, finely diced red onion, sliced green onion
- Jarred: roasted red peppers, pimento peppers, olives
- Blanched: asparagus, green beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower
- Roasted: raw peppers of all shapes, sizes, and flavors
Pro tip: Do your diners a favor and chop the vegetables close to the same size as the pasta. This makes it easier to get a little bit of all the good stuff in each bite.
Additional Pasta Salad Flair
Herbs: Both dry and fresh herbs are welcome in pasta salad. Dry herbs do best in the vinaigrette and hold up well in advance. Fresh herbs should be added just before serving to avoid turning brown.
Soft cheese: Notice I didn’t say “any cheese” here. Please skip the grated cheddar, the mozzarella pearls, or cubes of Swiss cheese. Instead, use a soft spreadable cheese, such as goat cheese or herbed Boursin, and work it into the salad. The rich creaminess will add more fat and more flavor in the absence of mayo.
Toasted nuts: Add nuts with caution, as they too can cause textural confusion. Something small or finely chopped works well. I’m particularly fond of toasted pine nuts and pepitas.
Pro tip: Be sure to taste and season the salad at different temperatures. You’ll probably need more salt than you think if serving the salad cold.
Avoid the Sad-Soggies
You can cook the pasta, make the dressing, and prepare the vegetables well in advance, but wait until just before serving to add the second half of the salad dressing and any cheese and nuts. This not only prevents the salad from getting soggy and dry, but also helps the salad look prettier on the picnic plate.
This authentic caponata is somewhere between a stew and a salad. Sweet and sour aubergines mix with salty olives, capers and tangy tomatoes. Best eaten at room temperature or just warm, this is our dream lunch, served with crusty ciabatta.
- 4 medium aubergines, chopped into 2cm/1in cubes
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 100g/3½oz green olives
- 3 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1½ tbsp sugar, or to taste
- handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
- extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
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