Ever find yourself having to suddenly prepare a quick dessert? Victoria shows how to whip up a simply stunning dessert in less than 30 minutes.
I’m no stranger to forgetting that I’ve invited people round for lunch until the last minute. I come from a fairly big family who regularly get together for an enormous feast, so cooking for the masses never seems that big a deal to me. I take my mother’s approach to catering for unexpected extra dinner guests, “No problem, it only means a few extra spuds to peel”. This has sometimes got me into trouble with my poor, long-suffering boyfriend, who, after six years together, has become fairly inured to spontaneous lunch parties, but isn’t always as keen on the panic-induced speed cleaning of the flat that these events invariably require.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to plan a menu and thoughtfully scribble notes on possible flavour combinations to (hopefully) wow my guests with, but sometimes life takes over and you find yourself with half an hour to nip to the local Co-op for extra tatties, before desperately shoving something into the oven for Sunday lunch. Being self-aware enough to realise my failings when it comes to being socially organised, but not quite caring enough to change, I always have a very well-stocked freezer to accommodate for any emergency suppers.
The other day, I received this text from a friend who I’d forgotten I’d invited round for lunch, “So sorry, we’re running 20 minutes late. Hope the lunch won’t burn! x”. At this stage there was nothing to burn. The oven was as cold as marble on a winter’s day and I was leisurely hanging out my scanties to dry while singing along loudly to the radio.
The main thing to do at this stage is not to panic. You probably already know someone fairly well if you’ve invited them round for grub, so a fairly casual is acceptable, if not preferable. And, if you already have a cupboard well stocked with olives, piquillo peppers and other tasty stuff that comes in jars, you can whizz up a bowl of hummus in the food processor (chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, seasoning, a smidge of water. Boom.) and there will be enough stuff for everyone to pick on while you crack on with the main event; which will definitely depend very much on what your freezer or local Co-op can offer. An emergency pudding is much simpler to pull off.
Frozen berries (foraged blackberries from earlier in the year work well here), a tub of Mascarpone (or full fat Philadelphia), vanilla paste (all self-respecting keen cooks should have this in their cupboards already), sugar and a ready-rolled sheet of all butter puff pastry. By all means make your own puff, it is much simpler than people will have you believe, but this is an emergency pudding, so speed is the key ingredient.
If you don’t have frozen raspberries in your freezer, tinned peaches make for a surprisingly sophisticated result, as do fresh pears, figs and apples, or most other odds and ends you find rattling around in the fruit bowl. And, if all else fails, just ply your guests with enough raw booze that they will forgive you anything. You can show off your culinary wizardry next time. For now, the most important thing is to get something on the table, while still managing to have a good time in the process and this emergency pudding will ensure you can do just that.
Serves 4 – 6, depending on how generously sized your tarts are.
Emergency Raspberry and Mascarpone Tart
1 sheet of ready-rolled all butter puff pastry
1 punnet of frozen raspberries (or pretty much any fruit, frozen or otherwise)
A tub of Mascarpone cheese (or full fat Philadelphia – an unopened tub of this stuff lasts for an age in the fridge)
2 tbsp. caster sugar
A big dollop of vanilla paste (or extract or scraped out real pod seeds if you have them in)
A sprinkling of icing sugar, if you like
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/400°F/Gas Mark 6
Cut the puff pastry into squares or rectangles and score a line about 1cm in from the edge, all the way round – this helps the tart’s edges to puff up. Transfer each square onto a baking tray.
Mix together the Mascarpone, vanilla paste and sugar into a paste and dollop a generous spoonful into the middle of each square. Roughly spread the filling over the centre of the tart, but don’t go over the scored edges.
Top the filling with fruit and pop the tarts in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and well risen.
Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving warm.
You can dust the tart tops with icing sugar to posh them up a bit if you like.