I made my annual visit to Paula at A Table en Provence a few weeks ago. Paula runs food & wine tours as well as cookery lessons from Vacqueras every summer. For more about Provence, click here.
As always, I had a lovely time-Provence is a wonderful place for a food lover (not to mention the wine!). One of the highlights this year, however, was a visit to L’Aube Safran, an organic saffron producer near the village of Barroux in the heart of the Dentelles mountains. Francois, the owner explained to me that the saffron threads he produces tend to be thicker and more robust in flavour than saffron produced elsewhere as the weather & soil conditions in Provence are unique to that region. In other words, it benefits from the same dry, clay that vines thrive on with hot summers and bright, sunny winters.
L’Aube Safran is also a gorgeous B&B with cookery classes given by Marie, Francois’ wife in a purpose built demo kitchen.
Francois from L’Aube Safran
Saffron & Cardamom Baked Custard Tartlets with Pistachio Dust
I have been playing around with the saffron over the last few weeks and I will post a couple of recipes but here is the first one!
These tartlets are refreshing and subtly flavoured, ideal after a strongly flavoured or heavy meal.
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
100 g Plain white flour
50 g chilled butter
1 tblsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk
For the custard:
4 Egg Yolks
250 ml Single Cream
60 g Caster Sugar
7-8 Cardamom Pods
A large pinch of Saffron threads (about 1 tsp)
A little gently whipped Cream (how much is up to you!!)
A handful of Pistachio nuts, very finely chopped (a pestle & mortar or coffee grinder is good for this!)
You will need 6 x 10 cm tartlet tins with removable bases
Make the pastry first. You can either use a food processor for this or use your hands.
To make by hand, place the flour and butter together in a bowl
Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter with the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Tip it out on to a lightly floured work surface and,using the heel of your hand, bring together with a little of the egg yolk (try to only add a little of the egg yolk at a time as the less you use the better for a light texture)
To use a food processor, place the butter and flour in the bowl with the blade attachment.
Pulse until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then add a small amout of egg yolk.
It should come together very quickly now.
When the pastry has formed into a smooth ball, flatten into a disc shape.
Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan, 350°F or Gas Mark 4
Roll the pastry out quite thinly (about 1/2 cm)
Using the tartlet tins, cut the pastry into the shape of the tin. Roll these circles out a little more.
Place the pastry in the tins, ensuring the edges are pressed up around the sides
Using a fork, pierce each tartlet a couple of times
Place the tins on a baking tray that is lined with baking paper or tin foil
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 mins
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5-10 mins while you make the custard.
To remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, either crush in a pestle & mortar or slit open with a knife and remove seeds
Now make the custard.
Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until the sugar has dissolved into the eggs and the mixture becomes pale in colour. Set aside.
Place the cream in a saucepan with the saffron and cardamom and heat very gently until it just about reaches boiling point. You will be able to see the surface quivering.
Turn the heat off and allow the cream to infuse with the saffron & cardamom for 3 or 4 minutes
Place a strainer over a jug and pour the cream in, removing the saffron & cardamom seeds
Pour a small amount of the flavoured cream into the eggs and whisk (this is to temper the eggs)
Pour the mixture back into the pot along with the rest of the cream
Over a gentle heat, stir the custard until it thickens
When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from the heat and return to the jug.
Pour the custard into each tartlet case until it comes right up to the top
Return to the oven and bake for 25-30 mins or until golden brown on top
Allow to cool for 30 mins before removing from the tins.
Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of the pistachio “dust”