Hello again! I am safely returned from an amazing adventure in Scotland. Good whisky, otherworldly fish and chips, fun people, and gorgeous hills and sky everywhere you look—not to mention, my calves still burn with the effort (and satisfaction) of summiting Ben Nevis, the British Isles’ tallest mountain. Here are a few highlights of the trip (culinary and otherwise)…
First, some gorgeous sightseeing with my family, who hosted me for a night of authentic Scottish food and great fun!
Then in Edinburgh, my fabulous traveler friend Caroline and I met up. We had a very tasty breakfast and great cup of tea at an adorable cafe called Urban Angel (note the butter portion):
My first souvenir purchase was, of course, Nigella Lawson’s new book Nigellissima (which I love with every centilitre of blood in my body, despite the book’s use of the metric system).
We tried haggis…
…and devoured it!
And we couldn’t say no to my favorite Irish late-night classic, garlic cheese chips:
One of my favorite parts of the trip was our visit to the battlefield at Culloden Moor near Inverness. Not only was it very moving and historically cool, but you could pretty much turn your camera in any random direction and still end up with a gorgeous photo:
Then in Fort William, we befriended an Aussie and a Kiwi, and together we climbed Ben Nevis in a rather impressive 6 hours flat! I’m pretty proud of us. Fans of The Simpsons will appreciate the similarities between Ben Nevis and Springfield’s Murderhorn (“yes, that’s it….just to the right of the one you’re looking at.”) Who needs PowerSauce Bars?
And another favorite moment was our glorious high tea at Stewart Victorian Tearooms in Glasgow. Mmmmm. Clotted cream.
It was a fantastic trip.
But my hands were itchin’ for the kitchen by the time I got home, and this was the first treat I prepared: my own birthday custard fruit tart. This tart is inspired by a custard from Laura Calder and a shell from Ina Garten, and it’s every bit as good as you’d expect a dessert from those two to be. It was super easy even though I did make the shell myself, but if you really want to streamline the whole process, you can buy a premade pie shell and simply cook the custard and top with berries. Creamy and light and a great alternative to birthday cake!
for tart shell:
12 tbsp cold butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
water, if needed
1/4 cup sugar
splash of vanilla
1 scant cup Greek yogurt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 cups strawberries, sliced
First, prepare the tart shell. In a food processor, pulse butter and sugar until just combined. Add the vanilla and pulse. Then combine the flour and salt in a bowl and add in two batches, pulsing until just combined. The dough should just hold together when pressed, so if it doesn’t at this point (mine didn’t), add a few drops of water and pulse until it reaches the right consistency. Turn the dough out onto wax paper and press into a disc. Wrap in paper and let it rest in the refrigerator at least half an hour.
Take the cold dough and carefully roll it out to to the size of your greased tart tin or pie dish. Press the dough into the dish and up the sides. Put it back into the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Take the tart shell out of the fridge and carefully lay a sheet of parchment paper over the dough. Fill the parchment-lined shell with dried beans, or fit another smaller pan into the shell. This will help it keep its shape while it bakes.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the beans or pan and use a spatula to touch up any thin or slipping parts of the shell base or sides. Prick a few times with a fork and place it back in the oven to cook another 13-17 minutes until golden brown.
Remove shell from heat and set aside to cool slightly while you prepare the custard. Whisk together eggs and sugar. Then add vanilla and yogurt and stir until smooth.
Pour the custard into the shell through a sieve so that it’s totally smooth. Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg.
Bake 18-24 minutes, until set. Let cool completely.
When the tart is completely cooled, arrange the strawberry slices on top of the custard. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy! Happy birthday to me.