Christmas was fun although it lasted but a blink and the year is nearly at an end (again!). It seems that the older I get, the faster the years seem to disappear. I always remember my parents saying that when I was a kid and thinking ‘really?’ But it is true. Time condenses….. I am sure of it….. Which means that before I know it we will be here again….. just like the film Groundhog Day.
If I sound a little grumpy about it all, I am! I always find New Year a very reflective time and often find myself dwelling on all those things I meant to do this year, but that never happened because I just didn’t get the time……. Maybe that’s because the years get shorter? Who knows…..
But New Year is also a time of renewal……… an opportunity to reassess and re-prioritise. A time to ditch the negativity and look forward. Next year, my family and my friends are going to have more of me….. That work-life balance is about to be redefined! (Do I say that every year too?)
If you are getting together with friends or family over the new year (or at any other time for that matter), these little tartlets are a perfect little offering.
The pastry is made with a sprinkling of finely grated Parmesan cheese (although you can use other hard cheeses as you wish), which gives it a wonderfully savoury, cheesy backdrop to nicely compliment the salmon and cold, lightness of the cream-cheese filling.
The cream cheese filling has been lightly whipped with a little creme fraiche to off-set the richness of the pretty pink hot smoked salmon. Hot smoked salmon (which is smoked at a higher temperature) is now widely available in many UK supermarkets and is a favourite of mine to use in seasonal nibbles, because the smoking process helps to retain and enhance a serious depth of flavour, a slightly drier texture and a darker hue, which looks beautifully inviting.
Although I have made a gluten free pastry, this appetiser will work just as well with a wheat-based short-crust cheese pastry or (of you can’t be bothered to make your own at all) just substitute with a shop bought short-crust ready-to-roll job.
Having said that, I made some of these over Christmas and my husband’s parents (who are not gluten free) were so impressed with the GF pastry, that they are now keen to go and buy the ingredients to make it anyway…….. That’s high praise (although in my world I often hope more people will try GF baking, just to wake them up to the deliciousness of it and their possible over-reliance on wheat).
I think the Parmesan pastry is well worth the effort, although be sure to roll from small-cut pieces so as not to overwork it and if you use very small, deep tartlet moulds as I did, treat it with care as it became slightly fragile when pushed into the holes too firmly. To get round this, I used the base of a narrow shot glass to mould the pastry with some control, before dropping the circles into the tart moulds.
Despite the name ‘Hot Smoked Salmon’, these are cold tartlets, so blind-bake and cool the pastry, before filling with the cream cheese mix and salmon. The big advantage is that they can be made well-ahead of time…..
Dill is a herb that marries wonderfully well with fish…….. the slight hint of aniseed freshens the palate and with a drizzle of lemon helps to cut through the oiliness of the salmon. Add to that a taste-bud wakening grind of black pepper and the result is a very moreish mouthful of deliciousness. A tray of these will not last long!
Happy New Year………..
Hot Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Tartlets with Parmesan Pastry
110g unsalted butter – cold and cubed
40g ground almonds
- Pastry : Weigh and mix the flours, xanthan gum and salt into a large bowl and stir together.
- Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the almonds and cheese.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water and pour into the dry ingredients.
- Stir all the ingredients together using a table knife until they begin to clump together.
- Dust your hands with corn or rice flour and bring the dough together, pressing into a ball.
- Knead very briefly, to make sure the ingredients are fully amalgamated.
- Roll the pastry out straight away (do not chill in the fridge), using corn or rice flour on the work surface and rolling pin to prevent sticking. In order to prevent over-working the dough (if you are making mini tarts) roll only a small amount of dough at a time, rather than rolling out the whole amount straight off.
- Cut out carefully-sized circles using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, and carefully ease the pastry circles into your chosen mini-tart moulds.
- Place the prepared pastry cases in the fridge for half an hour to chill prior to baking.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6.
- ‘Scrunch’ and then flatten small pieces of baking paper ready to line the inside of each tart case and then base fill each with a few baking beans.
- When the oven has reached temperature, blind bake the pastry with the baking beans for 10 minutes. Remove the beans, turn the oven down to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 5 to 8 minutes until pale golden brown. Keep an eye to ensure the cases don’t over-brown.
- When the pastry is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Filling : Beat together the cream cheese and creme fraiche until smooth.
- Cut the hot smoked salmon into small bite-sized pieces.
- Spoon a little of the cream cheese mix into each tartlet case and top with a piece of salmon.
- Grind a little black pepper over and lay a small sprig of dill over the salmon.
- Serve with a little lemon on the side as preferred.