Sometimes there are a lot of strange things in my fridge. I don’t know how I manage to do this, but I often end up with rather random items that need to be used up before some blight hits it. In a city like Mumbai, you never know when weevils will end up in the rice, shiny beetles will demolish your cardamom, or, in the case of this recent monsoon, a storm of red fire ants will attack your kitchen from various crevices and go for any food in sight (or out of it!). When a new bag of almonds and a small packet of black currants looked like they were going to become the latest victims, I plonked the almonds into a bowl of water without thinking to get rid of the ants, which resulted in a whole lot of soaked almonds that I had no plans for. As for the currants? I had about 60ml of whiskey left in a bottle that had been hanging around for ages… and somehow alcohol and currants seemed to be a good match given all of the christmas puddings from years past that my mother had put together.
At the end of my vermin-hunting kitchen exodus, I ended up having to throw away a lot of food, and was left with the following items in my fridge: soaked almonds, boozy currants, and a couple of pears. With no eggs in sight, it looked like I wouldn’t be able to do anything with these ingredients – until I hit upon a thoroughly successful gluten-free recipe quite by accident. Do keep in mind that I threw this together with very vague measurements, so you’ll have to gauge accordingly for the tart dish you may have. You will need 2 mini tartlet pans with a removable base. Hooray for necessity and invention!
Ingredients (makes two mini tartlets)
First, soak 2 cups of almonds in water for a couple of hours, and chuck about 2 tbsp of raisins or currants into about a shot’s worth of whiskey or rum or any good booze you have on hand for as long as you can manage.
For Tart Shells:
~1 cup of the soaked almonds
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cold butter
1 tbsp flour
2 medium ripe pears | sliced thinly
1 tbsp flax seed | grind to a powder *replace with 1 egg if you have it
~1 cup of the soaked almonds
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp brown sugar | *can replace with regular sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
boozy currants and soaking liquid
Start with the tart shells. In a food processor, grind up the cup of soaked almonds with the sugar until it resembles a coarse paste. Add the butter and flour and pulse it till it comes together uniformly – it shouldn’t stick to your fingers, so if it does, add tiny bits of flour till it doesn’t anymore. Scoop it out of the grinder and divide between your buttered tartlet pans. Use the tips of your fingers to press the paste down into each pan and spread it out over the base and up the sides.
Heat your oven to 190 degrees C and bake the tartlet bases for about ten minutes or until they don’t look ‘raw’ anymore. I have a mini OTG so it heats up a lot faster than a conventional oven. Remove bases and allow to cool.
While bases are baking, put the flax seed powder into a tbsp of water and let it sit for about 5 minutes. You can skip this ingredient if you have an egg on hand. In a grinder, grind up the second cup of soaked almonds till it has a fine crumby texture. In a bowl, mix the ground almonds with the brown sugar, flour, vanilla essence, about a tbsp of the boozy liquid from the currants, and flax mixture (or egg). The mixture will now look like a thick gooey batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two tart shells. Arrange pear slices over the batter and press in slightly. Poke in some of the currants between the pear slices.
Bake the filled tart shells for about 30minutes at 190 degrees C or until the crust browns a little bit and the mixture between the pear slices isn’t too gooey anymore. The mixture will not be totally dry, but it will appear more ‘puffy’ than when you put it into the oven. Remove and let the tartlets cool before transferring them to a plate. Ideally the tarts should ‘settle’ for a bit so that the mixture around the pears hardens a bit more upon cooling. You can do this in the fridge.
The smell of almonds and brown sugar baking is like heaven. Enjoy the free side effect of a fragranced home!