Apparently summer is in full swing! When we’ve had the occasional hot day I’ve been keen to get the barbecue out, invite friends over and relish every moment of lovely weather. I’m not usually one to eat desserts as I don’t really have a sweet tooth and find that they’re usually more effort to make than the entire meal. However, I have always loved strawberry tarts but figured they’d be too much hassle to make and didn’t think a healthier version would cut it in terms of taste.
So I came to experiment, attempting to make one of my favourite desserts into a hassle-free, healthier version that didn’t take all day, tastes great and didn’t send sugar and fat levels soaring.
There is some sugar in the form of maple syrup but the healthy fats from the coconut oil, butter and the protein in the almonds helps slow the rate at which the sugar hits our bloodstream, helping to keep blood sugar levels stable. On top of that strawberries also help regulate blood glucose levels so help lessen any impact that sugar may have which is an added bonus.
I used butter in the pastry because we like our pastry to be rich and crumbly and other fats don’t act quite in the same way, but is does impart health benefits to add a little butter to food (find out more on the health benefits of butter here). For a dairy-free option simply substitute with coconut oil.
I decided to base the traditional crème patissiere on lemon curd, another of my favourite sweet things. I use coconut oil for this as it holds together better and also has a natural sweetness. The special fats it contains are used preferentially by the body for energy production instead of being stored as body fat.
I’ve never looked at the ingredients of lemon curd before and was astonished by the amount of sugar and fat used in traditional recipes – who knew. On closer inspection of processed varieties I was shocked to see how much junk can be fitted into one jar! It’s worth a look at a popular brand’s ingredients. What’s more they don’t even use butter but highly processed margarine, an ingredient I avoid completely. Notice there’s not actually any real lemon in there either!
Sugar, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Water, Margarine: Vegetable Oil (Palm, Rape, Palm Fractions), Water, Modified Maize Starch, Lemon Juice from Concentrate (4%), Dried Egg, Gelling Agent: Pectin, Acid: Citric Acid, Lemon Oil, Acidity Regulator: Sodium Citrates, Antioxidant: Ascorbic Acid, Colour: Beta-Carotene
Our lemon curd is simply lemons, eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. It’s really easy to make and really versatile and the tartness of the curd perfectly compliments the sweet berries and almond crust. I’ve made these tartlets a number of times now and always make the curd in advance and then struggle not to eat the whole jar before I’ve actually made the pastry!
If you don’t have little tart trays, you can always use muffin trays or make one large tart and feel free to garnish with any berries you have to hand. I’ve also used cherries which was delicious. I love strawberries for all their health benefits but do consider buying organic strawberries – they’re higher in phytonutrients, but more importantly, the Environmental Working Group lists strawberries as number 4 on the most heavily sprayed crop list.