However much I love sunshine and clear skies, there is something wonderful about sitting inside with a cup of hot chocolate and listening to the rain. I still love wearing wellies and jumping in puddles with my son. Unfortunately he doesn't think it's nearly as fun as I do which means I more often than not end up jumping around while my almost 2 year old is staring at me like I'm a crazy person.
I think it is a love born out of necessity. The weather is pretty much bleak, grey and wet for 6 months a year and complaining doesn't change that, so might as well make the most of it. The cold weather is excellent for all things chocolate and even better: PIE!
For the last few years my go to pies were the american classics, apple, mud, pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, chess...
I wonder who first thought to make a dessert with pumpkin or sweet potato. And then I thought it would be fun incorporation another vegetable sometimes found in desserts; the humble beetroot.
The beetroot meringue tart is not only pretty in pink, but packs a punch with the added guajillo chili and aniseed; the guajillo combines heat with a sweet tanginess that pairs beautifully with the earthy beetroot and cool liquorice notes from aniseed. The billowing meringue topping is balanced with the addition of lime juice and slightly smoky notes from torching.
To me at least it ticks all the boxes: Sweet and sour, soft and crispy, smoky and spicy.
Aniseed and guajillo chili beetroot tarts with toasted lime meringue
Four 12cm tartlets or two 24cm tarts
150g softened butter
100g icing sugar
1 large egg, whisked
25g almond flour
250g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
Beat butter and icing sugar until soft and creamy, add the egg and beat well until incorporated. Mix in flour, almond flour and salt and mix only until the dough comes together.
Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Either separate the dough in 4 smaller balls or 2 larger. Roll out the pastry and line the ungreased tart shells with the pastry. Cover with aluminum foil or parchment and weigh down with dry beans. Bake the tart shells blind for 15 minutes at 180C/360F. Remove weights and foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.
450g peeled, roughly diced beetroot
2 tsp. ground aniseed
½-1 tsp. ground guajillo chili, depending on how spicy you like it.
750g whole milk
150g heavy cream
200g granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
3 large eggs
Combine beetroot, aniseed, chili, sugar, milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and maintain a gentle simmer for just under an hour.
Stir frequently, and scrape the sides and bottom of the saucepan to prevent buildup of milk solids during the reduction; similar to the process of making cajeta or dulce de leche from scratch.
Pour the mix into a blender with eggs and salt, and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine meshed sieve before pouring the filling into the tart shells.
Bake the tarts for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
3 egg whites
Juice of 1 large lime
Pinch of salt
Whisk the egg whites with the salt in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a little at a time while whisking, until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Gently fold in lime juice and either spoon on top of the tarts or transfer to a piping bag and pipe onto the tarts.
You can either bake the meringue for 3-5 minutes in a 220C/425F warm oven or use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue lightly. Either way, the meringue should be added just before serving because of the added moisture from the lime juice.