Strawberry and Pistachio Frangipane Tart

The sun is finally out and the summer fruit is starting to come into season which means one thing, strawberries! There is something almost nostalgic to strawberries for me, maybe it's the many trips to pick your own farms in Devon when me and my brother were little or maybe its just one of those flavours we universally associate with childhood? Regardless, those sweet and vibrant berries are the perfect summer fruit, especially when good berries come into season, not the flavourless, comically big, polystyrene textured versions that magically appear on supermarket shelves all year round. When the berries are good you really dont want to mess with them too much, the flavour of the berries is more than enough so simple is always better. This dish is therefore finished with fresh berries that have been macerated in the smallest touch of sugar, just enough to lightly gild the lily. The base of the tart is a frangipane, a spin on that classic Bakewell Tart filling, but using a scattering of vibrant green pistachios, a flavour that goes so well with strawberries, and just a big enough twist to make this seem different and a little unusual. If you don't fancy using pistachios you can substitute just about any other nut for the pistachios, just keep the ratio of almonds to the other nut the same. 

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Sweet Pastry
400g plain flour
1 vanilla bean pod (optional)
35g ground almonds
75g icing sugar
pinch of salt
250g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 large egg yolks
about 1 tbsp ice cold water

Pistachio Frangipane
110g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 large eggs
70g ground almonds
40g pistachios, finely ground
1 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

400g strawberries
1-2 tbsp caster sugar

Cut the vanilla pod, if using, in half and scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds in the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, almonds, icing sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and water and pulse until fully combined. (Alternatively, put the flour, almonds, icing sugar, salt and vanilla in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the butter and rub together using your fingertips, or use a pastry cutter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and water and mix together until the dough just starts to come together.) Be careful not to over-process the dough, or the finished pastry will be tough and chewy, you only want to mix the dough until it starts to clump together, not until it forms a uniform dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently bring together with your hands, very gently kneading into a smooth, uniform dough. Divide into two pieces, pressing into flat rounds. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and rest it in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using.

As with most pastry, this can be chilled and kept for up to one week before using, or it can be frozen for up to a months. This recipe is enough for two large tarts so you can either make a half batch or use one portion for another recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan). Take the disc of pastry out from the fridge and lightly flour the work surface with a little flour. Roll the pastry out until it is about 3mm thick. Roll back onto the rolling pin then gently unroll into a 9 inch loose bottomed tart tin. Gently lift up the excess pastry and press it into the corners of the tin, if you press the pastry in without lifting it up, you risk stretching or ripping the pastry and if it stretches its more prone to shrinkage. If you want to see how this method works check out my video on YouTube.

Trim off the excess pastry and refrigerate the tart shell in the fridge until the pastry is firm. Line the tart with a crumpled piece of parchment paper and fill with rice. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes then remove the rice and parchment and bake for a further 5-10 minutes just until the top edge of the tart shell is browning and the base is set but with just a hint of colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool then brush all over with a beaten egg yolk and bake a further minute or so until set, this will prevent the pastry from becoming soggy when we add the frangipane.

To make the frangipane place the butter, sugar and lemon zest into a large bowl and using an electric mixer beat together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time then mix together the dry goods and stir into the butter mixture, mixing until fully combined. Spread the frangipane inside the tart shell and sprinkle with a few extra chopped pistachios (optional). Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the frangipane is lightly browned and springs back to the touch. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool fully. 

For the topping slice the stalk from the strawberries and cut in half, placing into a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries (if they are rally flavourful and sweet they will only need 1 tablespoons if they need a little extra boost in flavour use the full 2 tablespoons) and set aside for about 30 minutes to macerate, this will help boost the flavours and draw out some of the moisture which also looks great on the finished dish. To finish top the tart with the strawberries and sprinkle with a few chopped pistachios. 

Once the tart is topped with the strawberries it is best the day served but you can make the tart a day or two in advance just doing the strawberries when ready to serve. 

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