The idea of these treats came to me because Mrs WDC is growing strawberries (from a couple of plants). Every few days perhaps one or two very small strawberries along with couple of pea pods are put on a dish and left on the kitchen counter. Okay, not much of a harvest, and to be brutally frank there are not enough strawberries – or peas – to construct anykind of recipe…
But the idea occurred that I could make a feature of the mini harvest, in mini tarts – at least this way Mrs WDC could enjoy the fruits of her labours with dedicated little culinary constructs. Now, I could have made pastry bases, but to be honest, it’s not much of a cheat and the logic says make bigger tarts and use more strawberries. However, I was also aware that tiny tart cases are available at some supermarkets. They would be perfect for the little strawberries – and peas.
On reflection, I realise that I was simply designing singular canapés in the case of the peas and a petit fours in the case of the strawberries. But the ideas felt more engaging, simple and homely than cheffy creations.
For the peas, I made a custard out of quails eggs and cooked litte quiches in the oven – a few peas in the quiche and a few decorating the top. This is not really a simple cheat so I will not elaborate further here – other than to say it was a fantastic way to showcase a select amount of home-grown peas.
For her strawberries (there were two), I filled the bottom with a small dab of strawberry preserve and added a very small spoonful of clotted cream and then popped the strawberries on top. Again, the tarts became a wonderful showcase for the elite fruits, and they only took a few moments to make.
The pea quiches were good – really good. But something else was going on with the strawberry tarts that made me realise I had unwittingly created something special. For a start they tasted amazing. All the flavours of a Cornish cream tea, or strawberries and cream or strawberry shortcake in a perfectly formed bite-size treat. But there is more to them than this – it is perhaps the fact that they are so small, they are a delight to eat. Somehow less becomes more and it intensifies the strawberry experience…
Then it occurred that our grandchildren would like them and I made several for a picnic. They are now officially the best thing they have ever eaten. They are like a good Pixar movie – they can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Visually, you need the top to the strawberry, but then it is not practical to try to pinch it off when the strawberry is perched on it creamy mount. So I cut around the tops with a small sharpe knife. In fact I have done this on all the strawberries in the photo here.
The brilliant serendipity of this cheat is that Mrs WDC’s small strawberries ultimately became their virtue. So the size of strawberry is critical for the success of the treat. Although commercial growers have all the wherewithals to produce bountiful harvests of large plump fruits, there are many types of strawberry that are by their nature small and sweet, so seek these out. Or go to the store where I bought my tart cases they also sell small packs of ‘mini’ berries. Perfect.