“Pies or small cups of pastry served with stews or sweet fillings have been popular for centuries in Europe. With the birth of classic French cuisine in the 18th century, these dishes were refined with the use of puff pastry or shortcrust pastry. In the 1700s, the term “tartlets” referred only to sweet dishes, and it was not until the subsequent century that savoury recipes were introduced. Tartlets had their heyday in the 20th century, when they were served between the appetiser and main course at the great dinners of the bourgeoisie, but soon they became a beloved part of menus at festive occasions at all levels of society. As a child, I had enough margarine-based industrial tartlets to last a lifetime, so if you don’t have the opportunity to make croustades or tartlet shells using proper butter-based pastry, I would recommend toasted bread instead.” Claus Meyer.
2 to 3 tablespoons standard canola oil
10½ oz puff pastry (defrosted if frozen)
all-purpose flour, for dusting
1½ tablespoons butter
2½ tablespoons plain flour
2 cups warm chicken stock
1 organic egg yolk
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
finely grated zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
4 white asparagus
4 green asparagus
½ summer cabbage
1 lb 2 oz peas in the pod (yielding about 2⁄3 to 1 cup peas when podded)
½ handful of green herbs, freshly torn. Claus Meyer recommends sweet cicely or chervil.
You will need 24 tartlet pans or molds, each about 4 to 4½ inches in diameter. Oil 12 on the inside and 12 on the outside thoroughly with the canola oil.
Roll the puff pastry out thinly on a floured work surface. Cut out 12 circles about 4½ to 5½ inches in diameter and use them to line the internally oiled pans. Make sure the pastry is pressed in firmly, with no air bubbles caught under the dough, then place the externally oiled pans on top of the pastry shells, to keep the dough pressed against the bottom pans.
Let them rest in the refrigerator for 20 to 25 minutes.
Bake the tartlet shells in a preheated oven at 400°F for 12 to 14 minutes. Let them cool slightly in the pans before gently turning them out.
Tip: The tartlet shells can also be made with “dull pastry,” which is puff pastry that has been kneaded so that the butter layers have been removed, typically the re-kneaded trimmings left over from cutting out the dough. Pastry cases made with “dull pastry” will keep their shape a little better, but they are not quite as crisp and flaky.
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring, to make a smooth roux. Add the warm chicken stock and stir vigorously while it comes to a boil to stop any lumps from forming. Let simmer for 7 to 8 minutes.
Mix the egg yolk and cream together, then whisk into the sauce and simmer for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Pass the sauce through a sieve and season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon zest and juice. The sauce should be light, creamy, and velvety.
Peel the white asparagus and break off the woody stem ends, but simply rinse the green ones in cold water before breaking off the stem ends. Slice the asparagus and cabbage finely, shell the peas, and add all the vegetables to the sauce. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, remove from the heat, and mix the freshly torn sweet cicely or chervil into the stewed vegetables.
Warm the tartlet shells in a preheated oven at 400°F for 2 minutes, then fill them with the stewed vegetables.
Serve the tartlets as an appetizer or a light main course, depending on the number of diners.
Recipe from ‘The Nordic Kitchen’ by Claus Meyer (Mitchell Beazley)