‘Just begin, and the mind grows heated. Continue and the task will be completed’. So said Goethe.
‘The hardest step is always the first step’. So said someone else. Not quite as eloquent as Goethe, clearly. But same gist.
This is true of life. Of the seemingly un-doable. Of the first word on a blank page. Of tasks topping your to do list.
It is true of the kitchen too. Often, ask me what I’m going to make when I first step into my kitchen, and I couldn’t tell you. But then, apples poised in a bowl call out for golden sugar and morph into apple pie, eggs into meringue, carrots into cake.
Creating seems impossible. Until you’ve started. Then it’s second nature. Before you know it, you’re on a path that is untrodden, yet feels comfortingly familiar. Somehow, you’re confident of where you’re going. Ingredients call upon other ingredients – apples need walnuts, carrots cry out for almonds. A puzzle slots together, and with each piece the end picture grows more clear. You can’t imagine cooking any differently.
I find immense satisfaction in this process. There are few pleasures like it.
A moment like these was the genesis of this simple galette. Fresh strawberries sighted the market. A bottle of balsamic vinegar lurking at the back of the cupboard. The really good kind. From Modena. A pinch of black pepper as an afterthought, but an inspired one – by then the mind had grown ‘heated’. Mascarpone, a necessary addition. Lighter than whipped cream, and blunter in flavour. Cheese and fruit marry well. The pastry – I’ll be honest – shop bought. Although, in retrospect, I regret not making my own. Like here.
Completed, the galette was a triumph. Each individual component enhancing – and, in turn, enhanced by – it’s neighbour. Regal in it’s gleaming crimson hues. Natural in the unadulterated white of the mascarpone topping. Think a rustic milefeuille: all the exquisite flavour of the puff, delicate cream, sweet fruit – but without the fancy layers.
Surely, Goethe would approve.
- FOR THE STRAWBERRIES
- 600g strawberries
- 3 tbsps caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsps good quality balsamic vinegar
- generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- FOR THE GALETTE
- one sheet (roughly 250g) of puff pastry
- 1 egg
- 500g mascarpone
- 75g caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Prepare the strawberries: slice off the stalk and quarter them. Throw them into a bowl, sprinkle with the sugar and drizzle with the balsamic. Toss well, so that all the fruit is coated in jus and leave them to macerate for at least 15 mins. Then add the black pepper, stir and leave to rest for at least a further 5 mins.
- Line a baking tray with paper, roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle (roughly 1cm thick), and lay on the tray. Use the back of a knife to trace a rectangle shape at the centre of the pastry sheet, at roughly 2cm from the edge. Crack the egg, lightly beat it with a fork, then use a pastry brush to glaze the outside rim of the pastry, in other words the space between the edge and the rectangle shape at the centre of the tart. This will give the galette a nice shine when baked. Now cut a square of baking paper to fit the central rectangle and place it on top of the centre of the pastry, weighted down with baking beans (or plain rice, if you don't have baking beans) - this should let the outer edge rise higher than the middle, so that you have a gentle hollow at the centre of the galette to fill with mascarpone cream and fruit. Put in the oven and bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown at the edges and cooked in the middle.
- Spoon the mascarpone into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy in texture. When the pastry base is cooked, take it out of the oven and allow it to cool to from temperature on a wire rack. Spoon the mascarpone cream into the middle, spread it out leaving the edge of the tart uncovered, then top with the strawberries. Make sure to drain most of the excess juice from the strawberries before adding them, or the galette will soon become soggy.
- Sprinkle with a little more ground pepper and serve immediately.