Did you know that the Queen has not one but two birthdays? Obviously there is her actual birthday, on April 21st; but since 1748 the sovereign of the UK has had an ‘official’ birthday which is generally set around the start of June, to coincide with a higher probability of good weather for outdoor ceremonies. For her 90th birthday this year, June 11th is the official date, but celebrations will begin on June 10th as well as there being events on May 12-15th.
For the climax of the Queen’s birthday celebrations on June 12th, The Mall in London will be turned into a giant street party for The Patron’s Lunch, with 10,000 guests eating a picnic lunch and being entertained by street performers and circus acts. Each guest will be provided with a picnic hamper filled with goodies including posh sandwiches, cakes, pies, cheese and the classic Summer drink – Pimm’s!
Pimm’s is one of my favourite things to drink on a warm sunny day, and a Summer picnic or tea party wouldn’t be complete without a glass of Pimm’s and lemonade; so in case you want to host your own party for the Queen’s birthday, or just for the spring bank holiday (May 30th), I made some rather special Pimm’s fruit tarts. I based these tarts on the classic Pimm’s cup drink – Pimm’s No.1 with lemonade, orange, cucumber, strawberry and mint (I’ve also included the recipe for the drink); I used all of these flavours in the tarts; there is a citrus pastry shell which is flavoured with orange and lemon zest and filled with cucumber mint jam and Pimm’s creme patissiere and topped with strawberries, orange slices, cucumber and a sprig of mint.
It may seem like quite a long recipe, but it can easily be broken down into the individual components and most of it can be made in advance. The cucumber mint jam can be made a week beforehand and stored in the fridge; I’ve just given the quantities to make a small jar of it, as although it works well in these tarts, adding a subtle, refreshing cucumber and mint flavour; I’m not sure it is really the kind of jam you would want to spread on your toast! If anyone has any ideas of other uses for it please share (in a cocktail maybe?) as I had to make a couple of batches to get it right so I’ve got two jars of it in the fridge…
The pastry can be made the day before you blind bake the tart shells, which in turn can be baked the day before you assemble the tarts. It is a really lovely, crisp pastry with a citrussy flavour and I had no problems with it shrinking when baked. I baked my tarts in mini brioche moulds (and some super mini ones), which are very pretty, but a bit awkward to line! you can use pretty much any tart tins you like, or a muffin tray, or you can make one large tart if you prefer (though bear in mind that it will take longer to blind bake); the recipe should make about eight individual tarts, around 13cm wide.
The Pimm’s creme patissiere (pastry cream) can be made the day before you want to serve the tarts, it is a standard pastry cream recipe, with added Pimm’s No.1 (yum!); I haven’t given a specific amount in the recipe as it should be added to taste (2-4tbsp), though bear in mind that if you add too much your pastry cream will become runny! I used 4tbsp and mine was soft but not runny so I wouldn’t add any more than that. I decorated the tarts with slices of orange, sliced strawberries, cucumber and mint (remove the mint before eating!); I think I would recommend using slices of green apple in place of the cucumber as although the flavour of the cucumber jam works well, it is a bit odd biting into an actual slice of cucumber on top of a sweet tart! You can also glaze the finished tarts with some extra cucumber mint jam if you like (I completely forgot to…).
These Pimm’s fruit tarts are truly delicious and are perfect to serve at a party or as part of an afternoon tea, especially when served with a glass of Pimm’s! They should be eaten shortly after being assembled, and definitely on the same day at least as the fruit will start to release moisture and the pastry will soften. If they aren’t being eaten within an hour or so of assembly then they should be kept refrigerated. For some more ideas for Pimm’s cocktails (and pretty much any other cocktail recipe you could possibly want), you may want to visit thebar.com.
- 200g (7oz) peeled and grated cucumber (about 1 medium)
- 150g (3/4 cup) jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)
- 1 large sprig fresh mint, bruised
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- 350ml (1 + ½ cups) full fat milk
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 20g (3 tbsp) plain flour
- 20g (3 tbsp) cornflour
- 140g (scant ¾ cup) caster sugar
- 2-4tbsp Pimm's No.1
- 250g (2 cups + 1tbsp) plain flour
- 50g (1/2 cup) icing (powdered) sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 150g (1/2 cup + 2tbsp) cold unsalted butter
- finely grated zest of 1 large orange and 1 large lemon
- 2 egg yolks
- 1-2 tbsp orange juice
- 2 oranges, peeled and sliced
- a few slices of cucumber or green apple
- about 250g (9oz) strawberries, sliced
- a few small sprigs of fresh mint, to garnish
- per person:
- 50ml Pimm's No.1
- 100ml lemonade
- 1 slice orange
- 1 slice cucmber
- 1 strawberry, sliced
- 1 sprig mint
- Place the peeled, grated cucumber, sugar, mint and lemon juice in a medium/small, deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir to combine then leave to macerate for an hour. Place a couple of saucers in the freezer.
- Remove the mint and either use a stick blender to puree the rest, or pour it into a blender, blend until smooth then pour it back into the pan. Bring up to a rapid boil and boil for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and dollop a teaspoonful of the jam onto one of the frozen saucers, place in the fridge for a minute then draw your finger through it; if the jam forms a skin that wrinkles when you push at it, and doesn't run back together when you draw your finger through it then it is ready; if it still seems too runny then return to the heat, cook at a rapid boil for another five minutes then test again.
- When the jam is ready, pour it into a sterilised jar, seal and leave to cool. It can be made a week in advance, keep refrigerated.
- Place the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat until just boiling; meanwhile, whisk together the egg, yolks, flours and sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
- Return the mixture the the saucepan over a medium heat, whisk constantly until it comes to a boil and thickens, cook for at least two more minutes, while whisking, to cook out the flour.
- Remove from the heat, pour into a clean bowl and cover with clingfilm directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Leave to cool then refrigerate until cold; once cold, stir in the Pimm's to taste a little at a time - I used 4 tbsp but bear in mind that the more Pimm's you use, the runnier your pastry cream will be. The pastry cream can be made the day before assembling the tarts, keep refrigerated and covered with clingfilm directly on the surface.
- Place the flour, sugar, salt, butter and zest in a food processor and pulse until it resembles sand (or rub the butter in by hand), add the egg yolks and just enough orange juice to bring it together into a ball, shape into a disk, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.
- Divide the pastry into eight portions (if using 13cm tart tins, or more for smaller ones) and shape each one into a ball. Roll out one ball at a time on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick and use to line one of your tart tins, trim off the excess pastry and repeat with the remaining balls. Prick the base of each tart a few times with a fork then place the tarts in the freezer for about 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- Line each tart with a double layer of good quality clingfilm (or use baking parchment), going right into the corners and up the sides, fill about ⅔rds full with dried rice or baking beans, making sure that the sides are propped up, fold the overhanging clingfilm over the top of the rice/beans. I prefer to use clingfilm and dried rice when blind baking small tarts as it is easier to get it right into the corners, make sure it is a decent quality clingfilm however or it may melt.
- Bake the tarts for 15 minutes then remove the rice/beans and lining and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until crisp and golden. If the sides are beginning to colour before the base is cooked then you can fold a strip of tin foil around the edge to stop it from catching.
- Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes then gently remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. Once cold store in an airtight container.
- Dollop a little of the cucumber mint jam in the base of each tart shell (a teaspoon or so) and top with a generous dollop of the Pimm's creme patissiere. Arrange a couple of orange slices, sliced strawberries and pieces of apple on top, use a pastry brush to glaze with a bit of the cucumber mint jam if you like (gently heat it up a little if it is too firm to brush) and garnish with a sprig of mint.
- Half fill a tall glass with ice, pour in the Pimm's No.1 and lemonade and garnish with the orange, cucumber, strawberry and mint.
This post is sponsored by thebar.com, all opinions are my own.