I love a dinner party. We used to host them quite frequently back home and loved getting return invites to others’ houses, whether it was for a long slaved over butternut and sage risotto with home baked bread and butter pudding or a heat and eat from Woolies with Magnum sticks for dessert. We all loved the food, but the evening was made truly special not so much by the cuisine as the friends and the laughs and the celebration of friendships. Isn’t that why we eat in any case? Since moving to these Northern Climes, we’ve not had much opportunity to host our own parties but have, from time to time, enjoyed the hospitality of some wonderful new friends in their homes. We were invited last night to a somewhat unusual dinner party by some good friends, Ms M and her lovely Mr S. The theme? Orange! The meals were split by course over the guests with the only proviso being that the food had to be orange! We all wore orange, drank orange and felt decidedly Sunny the whole evening.
What luck that in season right now are a fabulous selection of orange fruit and veg, or we might all have had to resort to slipping drops of Moir’s food colouring into everything! We started off with an orange salsa made from bright orange tomatoes and a dash of Cilantro, sliced orange peppers and Beamster cheese , a mature, hard cheese with little lumps of salt in it, part of the Gouda family. We drank Tangerine Martini’s, expertly prepared by our host, and less successful cocktails of Malibu with fresh peaches (my decision and one I don’t think I’ll repeat). For the mains our honourable hosts prepared a sunset coloured feast of spicy pepper pasta with orange tomatoes and peppers in a superbly tasty olive oil and garlic, with a side salad of fresh orange tomatoes and Mimolette cheese, which, incidentally, is favoured by Charles de Gualles, and I can see why. Thanks to Ms M and Ms B, our other Orang-er, for introducing us to two fabulous new cheeses! I’m always so excited to meet a new tasty treat!
Dessert was my contribution to the meal. After messing around with a few radical ideas involving all sorts of freezing and moulding, I went with something a bit easier to transport in the summer heat: an open peach tart flavoured with almonds and Saffron. I’m having a little love affair with Saffron, it’s delicate, subtle flavour fills the mouth and transports one to exotic places. Also, it helped turn the dessert a more pleasing shade of orange than the pale almond cream on its own.
For the pastry, I used half vegetable shortening, which I don’t often do (in fact the only time I usually allow hard veg fats is in mince pies at Christmas time) but wanted a pie a little more delicate to suite the saffron. Acidity in the Grapefruit juice also adds to the tender crumble of the crust.
Peach Tart with Almond and Saffron Cream
1¼ cups plain flour
½ tsp Fleur de Sel
small pinch plain salt
½ Tbsp Sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, cut in to small pieces, chilled
¼ cup vegetable shortening, cut in to small pieces
2 Tbsp Grapefruit juice in about ¼ cup chilled water
for the almond saffron cream:
pinch saffron strands
2 Tbsp just boiled water
⅓ cup ground almonds
⅓ cup sugar
2 or 3 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced
2 or 3 Tbsp sugar
– preheat your oven to 400˚F
– make the pastry:
– combine all dry ingredients well in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and work with your fingers gently until mix resembles oats porridge. OR place dry ingredients ands fats into your food processor and blitz a couple times to form porridge texture.
– add liquid, half at a time, until dough just begins to form. Heap onto a sheet of cling film, cover and form into a disc. Refrigerate, covered in plastic, for about half an hour.
– when dough is chilled, roll out on a floured surface and line a greased and floured pie dish (about 10 – 12 inches). Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 mins.
– blind bake the tart shell for 10 – 15 mins until just firm (to blind bake pastry: cover the raw pastry with a piece of baking parchment, cover with dry beans or rice to weight the paper down and bake for a few minutes. This stops the crust turning soggy once the filling is added)
– make the almond cream:
– in a little bowl (a soy sauce sushi bowl is perfect) soak the saffron strands in the hot water for about 10 mins
– beat together the ground almond, egg and sugar. Add the saffron water and one or two strands. mix well and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to firm the cream a bit
-pour chilled cream into tart shell, arrange peach slices on top, bake 30 – 35 minutes in your hot oven until the peaches are bubbling slightly and the pastry is a golden brown.
-Allow to cool to room temperature
-Just before serving, sprinkly top with sugar and caramelise using a blow torch or under a hot grill for afew minutes. Be careful not to burn the pastry!
– serve with a little dulce de leche or caramel sauce. We used a Butterscotch sauce with Jamacian Rum for something a bit more sophisticated. 🙂
*thanks to Jane for the use of her camera and some lovely pictures taken by herself