A few days ago my inner mad scientist conspired with my hatred of food wastage and zeroed in on a bunch of basil which was slowly wilting in the fridge. Binning it was out of the question, as was making yet another batch of pesto. Then I remembered an amazing cocktail I had in a cheesy bar in Brighton many years ago: a concoction of wild strawberry and basil. The cocktail has long vanished from the bar's menu but the pairing of strawberry and basil left a lasting impression. I had my inspiration! I made basil-infused pastry cream and used it to make strawberry tartlets that were every bit as good as I might have hoped.
Pastry (makes about 12 3" tartlets)
- 80g icing sugar
- 200g plain flour
- 100g chilled butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 egg yolk
- Ice water to bind
Basil pastry cream
- 1 small bunch of basil, gently torn but not chopped
- 2 cups whole milk
- 6 egg yolks
- 100g sugar
- 40g cornstarch
- 50g butter
For the pastry cream:
- Bring the milk and basil to a boil in a small sauce pan. Turn off the heat, cover and leave the milk to infuse for about an hour.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn flour until smooth. Ready a big bowl of ice water to submerge your pastry cream into.
- Strain the milk into fresh pan and discard the basil. Reheat the milk until hot but not boiling then pour about one fourth of it onto the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Transfer the mixture back into the remaining milk, still whisking like mad, and cook over medium-high heat until the cream is thick and velvety, about 5-10 minutes.
- Submerge the pastry cream into the readied bowl of ice water, still whisking. Stir in the butter. Allow to cool to room temperature then cover the surface with cling film and refridgerate until ready to use.
For the pastry:
- Whirl the icing sugar and flour together in a food processor. Sprinkle on the butter and give it a few more spins till the mixture resembles fine sand. Mix the egg yolk with a bit of ice water and add to bind the pastry. Add just enough water to bind then dumb the dough onto
- Bake the tartlets at 170 degrees for about 12-15 mins until just golden. Leave to cool, then fill with pastry cream and decorate with fresh sliced strawberries and a sliver of basil leaf.