I spent the Easter weekend in Italy. Apart from a day of torrential rain and having to catch up with some work, the weekend was all kinds of wonderful, mainly because I got to hang out with my favourite person who doesn’t even get mad anymore when all my talking about food and new recipes means we are so distracted we again miss the right exit on the motorway.
There was an insane amount of food the entire weekend, including a rather large burger at a place we had been meaning to try for a while (a 500g beef patty combined with an equally large bun and even Alessandro was keen to share). We had lasagne, as is traditional for Easter around where Alessandro is from. There was both a vegetarian version (Alessandro’s mum is vegetarian) and one made by his dad that was filled with dozens of tiny meatballs the size of peas as well as cake made by his aunt made with no less than 35 eggs, a regional specialty.
I came back late on Monday night and since then work has been pretty relentless, all exciting and interesting stuff but also a lot of it. My sister Helena is staying with me this weekend and truth be told I was hoping for a lie-in or two. Those obviously did not happen, instead birthday parties, cocktails and dancing happened and the lie-ins will have to be postponed. I can’t really complain though – the weekend was all sorts of wonderful and I am incredibly grateful for my sister for introducing me to all of her friends here in Brussels and for her friends who try and not call me ‘Helena’ at all times (apparently Helena and I are rather similar in terms of our looks, mannerisms and sense of humour) and who have readily accepted me as a new member of their group of friends. After what was nonetheless a tiring weekend, I am facing another busy week, including a short trip to London for work and Alessandro arriving on Wednesday. So much so that I cannot wait for Thursday’s bank holiday here in Belgium to give me a bit of a breather and a somewhat quieter weekend than this one.
Although a steaming bowl of miso soup is one of my ultimate comfort foods I don’t often cook with miso at home. Every once in a while I will try and make Nasu Dengaku, the delicious Japanese dish of roasted aubergine with miso. But it never turns out as good as at my favourite Japanese restaurant in London. I have also tried replicating an asparagus salad of sorts I ate at Ottolenghi years ago and which had a miso dressing but somehow it never turns out quite right. I seem to have more success using miso in sweet dishes. If you are not the biggest fan of the idea of eating fermented foods like miso then cooking with a little bit of sweet white miso, the mildest type of miso you can buy, is an easy introduction to this magical ingredient. And if you like French salted butter caramel and always have a bar of fleur de del speckled dark chocolate in your fridge then you will like miso in sweets I reckon. It is salty but less aggressive than using pure salt, even the tamer fleur de del, and has a rounder taste. After several experiments with miso in sweet applications, I think it is safe to say that miso will work wherever flecks of salt or salted caramel work, mixed with brown sugar for an apple pie, folded into a custard base for ice cream, mixed with ganache to fill truffles or indeed with banana like for this custard tart. Banana Miso Custard Tart with a Buckwheat and Einkorn Crust
For the sweet pastry
120g butter, soft
35g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
120g einkorn, spelt or all purpose flour
60g buckwheat flour
For the banana miso custard filling
90g ripe banana (one medium banana)
2 tbsp milk
2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
3 tsp white sweet miso
Start by making the sweet pastry. In a big bowl cream the soft butter together with the sugar until light and fluffy using a handheld mixer. Add the egg and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the salt with the einkorn and buckwheat flour before dumping this in one go onto the wet ingredients. Using a large spoon stir the flour into the wet ingredients until everything is well amalgamated. Shape pastry into a ball, cover in cling film and place in the fridge for 1h.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and knead until pliable. On a floured surface roll out the pastry until it is ca. 3 mm thick. Line a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom with the pastry, making sure the pastry is pushed against the rim. Cut off any excess pastry with a sharp knife (the leftover pastry can be cut into small cookies and baked alongside the pastry case). Chill the pastry base for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, cover with parchment paper and baking beans and blind bake the pastry case for 15-20 minutes until the pastry appears dry and crisp and is light brown in colour.
For the banana miso custard, puree the banana together with the milk before whisking in the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and miso. Strain through a fine sieve into a jug. Turn the heat of the oven down to 160 degrees Celsius and place the pastry case back in the oven. Carefully pour in the banana miso custard and bake the tart for 25-30 minutes or until the banana miso custard is barely set. Leave to cool completely before serving.