These simple egg custard tarts are little beauties. Portuguese tarts were invented centuries ago by Catholic monks as a way of using up the yolks left over from the large quantities of egg whites needed at convents and monasteries for starching clothes, such as nuns’ habits.
2 sheets puff or flaky pastry
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
100g caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
2 strips of orange peel (no pith)
1 cinnamon quill
½ vanilla bean, split
Spray 9 1/
3 - cup- capacity muffin tins with a little oil. Cut 9 circles (about 9cm diameter) from pastry and press gently into tins ( pastry should almost reach the top of the tins). Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To make custard for the tarts, combine yolks and egg, caster sugar and cornflour in a medium saucepan. Gradually mix in cream and milk, stirring until smooth. Add orange peel, cinnamon quill and vanilla bean.
Cook over medium to low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and just comes to the boil.
Take off heat and stir several more times. Discard the flavourings. Cover the top of the custard with plastic wrap to stop a skin forming and leave to cool completely.
Heat oven to 220° C. Divide custard mixture evenly between pastry cases. Bake 20-25 minutes until tarts are starting to colour. Take from oven and leave to sit for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack.
Tarts are best eaten at room temperature on the day they are made. The custard will sink into the tarts as they cool, adding to their rustic charm. Makes 9