Pineapple tartlets with pandan & star anise
Around Chinese New Year, pineapple tarts are to Malaysia and Singapore what mince pies are to the UK and Australia around Christmas. People vote and argue about where to find the best one or who has the perfect recipe. Our version uses the sweet shortcrust pastry we use for a lot of pies and tarts: it's buttery and slightly crumbly in the mouth, but sturdy enough to hold the sticky pineapple jam. In other words, delicious. Speaking of mince pie, the jam ca be replaced by store-bought mincemeat, if you like: the pastry case makes a very good mince pie base.
2 large pineapples (2.8kg), peeled, core removed and flesh roughly chopped into 4-5cm cubes (about 1.3kg)
360g caster sugar
6 pandan leaves, bruised with the back of a knife and tied together in a knot (or 1/4 vanilla pod, sliced in half lengthways and seeds scraped)
6 whole star anise
SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY
(You will only need half quantity)
300g plain flour
90g icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into cubes, plus and extra 10g, melted, for brushing
finely grated zest of 1 lemon or lime (1tsp)
1 large egg yolk (plus an extra large egg, lightly whisked, to glaze)
20ml cold water
18 whole cloves, for studding the tarts
To make the jam, place the pineapple in a food processor (in batches) and pulse to form a coarse puree. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl; don't actually press down on the puree: you just want to strain out the excess juice rather than extract any more from the pineapple flesh. The strained juice (about 250ml) can be used to make ice lollies or as a refreshing drink over ice.
Place the pineapple puree in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, pandan leaves (or vanilla pod and scraped seeds) and star anise. Place over a medium-low heat and stir just until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium, bring to a boil and cook for about 1 hour, stirring with a wooden spoon every 5 or 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Take care as it may splutter and spit, and keep a close eye on it as it thickens: you might need to lower the heat halfway through the cooking time and stir more frequently, to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan. You want to take it further than regular jam: it will be ready when it is a thicken golden paste and holds its shape when spooned to a plate. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in a pan for half an hour before transferring to a bowl (or an airtight container, if making in advance to store in the fridge). Set aside until completely cool before removing the pandan leaves (or vanilla pod) and star anise. Keep in the fridge until ready to assemble the tartlets.
TARTS AND PIES
To make the pastry, sift together the flour, icing sugar and salt and place in a food processor. Add the butter and add lemon or lime zest and pulse a few times, until the mixture has the consistency of fresh breadcrumbs. Lightly whisk together the egg yolk and water and add this to the mix: the dough will feel quite wet, but this is as it should be. Process once more, just until the pastry comes together, then tip on to a clean, lightly floured work surface. Press or pat gently to form a ball, then divide the pastry in two. Wrap each half loosely in cling film and press gently to form a ball, then divide the pastry in two. Wrap each half loosely in cling film and press gently to form two flattish discs. The pastry is very soft so you need to keep it in the fridge for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).
Brush the moulds of the mince pie or regular muffin tin with melted butter and set aside.
When ready to bake, allow the pastry to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (if it has been in the fridge for more than a few hours) and place on a lightly floured work surface, working with one disc of pastry at a time. Tap all over with a rolling pin to soften slightly before rolling out until 2mm thick. Using a 7cm cookie cutter, stamp out 18 circles and place one in each greased mould. Re-roll the pastry, if necessary, until you get 19 circles. Set aside in the fridge to rest. The remaining pastry disc can be frozen for future use.
Press the pastry offcuts (from the used disc) together and roll into a rough rectangle, about 2mm thick. Cut the pastry into strips, about 6 x 0.5cm: these will form the lattice to decorate the tarts. Transfer to a baking tray and keep in the fridge until ready to use.
To bake the tarts, preheat the oven 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. Spoon a heaped tablespoon of the pineapple jam - about 30g - into each pastry case (don't think you've missed a step here: the cases are not blind-baked) and level the surface with the back of a teaspoon. If the kitchen is warm and the pastry is softening, return the trays to the fridge for a few minutes. Place the strips of pastry on top of the tarts to form a lattice shape (the easiest way to do this is to first lay two or three strips parallel to each other and then lay another two or three on top) or any other pattern. Trim the ends with a pairing knife to fit and press the ends into the edge of the pastry.
Brush the beaten egg over the pastry top, push a whole clove into the centre of each tartlet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown all over. Remove form the oven and allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove the cloves before eating!