Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Passionfruit tartlets





My husband went out the other night and didn't come home until 3.30am. I know because a car alarm woke me up at 3am and instead of thinking "I'll just go back to sleep," I crept downstairs to check if he had come back and was asleep in the spare room. He was not. For some reason I hit the fucking roof, calling him 11 times, texting saying "Where the fuck are you??" and trembling with rage.

He hustled back immediately, apologising. In the morning he apologised more, in different ways, trying to find the right combination of words to make my face not do the I Hate You Death Stare I'm Going To Kill Myself And The Kids thing.

He didn't understand what the problem was. He sometimes comes back late, it's not a big deal is it? He wasn't doing anything bad, just, you know, messing about with R--- B--- and J---- C---- in the Groucho. There weren't any girls! Except C---- L--- but she doesn't count! And look, here he is, giving Kitty her breakfast at 7.30am and burping Sam and stuff. He's not a shit dad! Or really a shit husband either!?

I didn't know, in truth, why I was so pissed off. But then I got a bit teary and without even thinking said "Do you know what a c--- I feel when I'm at home flicking through magazines and washing fucking bottles and you're out ripping up Soho? I never, ever get to do that. I never go out for dinner, saying I'll be back at 11pm and then don't fucking come back till 4am. Never. I just look after the children and work and do Ocado orders and cook. And VERY OCCASIONALLY I go to sleep."

But you could go out, he said. I'd love you to! Why don't you? Go! I'll do the kids in the morning you don't even have to do that!

That wasn't the point though. That wasn't it. I don't want to go berserk in the bloody Groucho and crawl to bed at 4am. I didn't even really want to do that before I had kids. I certainly don't want to now. But I want to want to. Do you see? What I crave is my husband's freedom to want to do things like that. To go out and have actual fun, not just pretend grimly to have fun, (all the while wondering when you can go home), and be having so much actual real fun that you can just see where the night takes you. If I managed to organise some night out in town it would come to it and the pressure would be so immense that I would fail to enjoy myself for even three consecutive minutes and be at home in bed by 11pm.

My husband thinks that he is not free because he is always home for bathtime and barely looks out of the window without asking my permission. But he is: in his head, he is free. He can let go of his domestic life, if only for a few hours, if only aided by 17 gins, and feel like tomorrow doesn't matter. Or at least, he will deal with tomorrow when it happens.

I, on the other hand, am a prisoner in a cage that I built for myself out of layers and layers of responsibilities and routines and insecurities and neuroses and the awful knowledge that a father's absence, no matter how involved he is in family life, is, in the end, neither here nor there. But a mother's absence is like a massive crater left by a huge neutron bomb. You are always being watched, and judged - if only by yourself. It is mad but it is a fact and it is suffocating. It's not fair. It's just NOT FAIR. And it is why women with small children can get so very angry.

[Pause. Look down. Look up. Smile.]


When I started to learn how to cook I was such a completely rock-bottom beginner that even now I tend to think I am being really extremely adventurous for cooking something as complicated as lasagne.

I am always utterly baffled by those things they do on Bake-Off like "yes I'm making orange blossom, cardomom white chocolate and thyme shortbread dippers with a curried Florentine crumble topping" and you're like WTF? What's wrong with chocolate chip cookies? (Don't answer that.)

Anyway I thought I ought to try something more exotic and that is how I ended up making Edd Kimber's passionfruit tartlets. His original recipe was for caremelised banana and passionfruit tartlets but I thought that might do my head it, so just stuck with the passionfruit.

It involved the making of a passionfruit curd, which I was excited and nervous about as it involves cooking a lot of egg yolks without scrambling them. And usually if there are eggs to be scrambled or a sauce to be split or pretty much anything to go wrong in a recipe I will get it wrong.

But they turned out well! Despite being a bit fiddly. And incredibly impressive for an after-dinner treat when no-one feels much like a huge slab of actual pudding. I took the leftovers up to Kitty's nursery and the teachers there said that they kept well overnight. I know! I'm such a creep.

Passionfruit tartlets

1 pack puff pastry from Jus Roll (all-butter, in the gold packet)
80ml passionfruit puree, strained (which is the insides of about 5 passionfruit whizzed in a blender or whatever and then passed through a sieve. Do not worry, the blender will not mash up the passionfruit seeds, they will just get left behind whole in the sieve. Passionfruit seeds are INDESTRUCTIBLE. Like Lego.)
100g butter
5 egg yolks (gulp)
175g caster sugar

1 Grease a 12 hole muffin tin and then roll out the puff pastry thinly.

2 Cut out 12 pastry rounds. The recipe specified a 10cm cutter, but I thought that was too big so I went one down. Press each round carefully into a muffin tin depression and prick the bases with a fork. Stick in the fridge for 15 min.

3 Line the pastry with a triple layer thickness of cling film - it doesn't melt I promise - and fill with baking beans (or whatever you use if you don't believe in baking beans). A reader has pointed out to me that you can also use fairy cake cases to hold the baking beans against the pastry. Very brilliant idea - I will be doing this in the future. Bake these in a 180C oven for 15 mins, then take out the beans and film and bake for another 8 mins until brown. I did not leave mine in for long enough and they turned out a bit anaemic so make sure yours are nice and tanned.

4 Allow the shells to cool in the tin.

5 For the passionfruit curd put the egg yolks and passionfruit puree into a pan over a medium heat  and whisk constantly until it becomes thick. This will take a while, about 10 mins or so. It will get really quite thick, too - so if you're wondering "Hmm, is this only how thick it gets?" then keep going a bit longer. Once it is thick add the butter and stir to combine.

6 Set this aside to cool a bit and then fill your pastry shells. Sprinkle the tops with caster sugar and either caramelise with a cook's blowtorch (or a real blowtorch if you are also an electrician) or more likely shove under a hot grill for 30 secs. 

46 comments:

  1. These look very tasty.
    P.s. I have no children and never go out either

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  2. My children are both very small, too, and I am alternatingly very angry, and then sad, at my constant simmering discontentedness, to the point where I simply cannot return a 'How are you?' at Nursery drop-offs without feeling like a liar, or about to burst into tears. And my husband is not shit either, he does all the baths and stories and never goes out on all-night benders like yours. I am not meant to be a mum... Thank you for articulating everything so elegantly xxx

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  3. Great post. I think we all feel like that sometimes. The magnitude of the responsibility of motherhood sometimes hits you like a brick.

    I suggest you go to a festival next summer - sans enfants of course - and let your hair down for a couple of days. (Hell, you might even miss the little blighters.)

    Nice tarts.

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  4. It is a universal truth that men are "Fun Dad" and women are "Cross Mum." I was at a wedding lamenting the fact that I had forgotten how to have fun and all the other Mums nodded in agreement, making those "You're so right noises." Motherhood. It's a bitch. And no-one ever says "Thank you" either.

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  5. Hang on, hang on. Firstly, there's such a thing as baking bean atheists? What's not to believe in? And secondly, you can put cling film in the oven?!?! Can you, honestly? I had no idea! Every day's a school day.

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  6. You are right about everything.

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  7. Honestly I do know how you feel, went through exactly the same scenario a million times 20 years ago when my children were small (although for Groucho read local dingy pubs, so possibly my theoretical envy-but-not-really quotient was not quite so marked...)
    As I've grown older I've accepted that I'm just not the party-animal, drink-without-a-thought-for-tomorrow's-hangover, eagerly-attend-every-damn-social-thing-going kind of person that the majority of the world seems to be. And that's ok - I can enjoy social stuff but too much or too often sucks all the life out of me so I've made my peace with my natural inclination for home & family & peace. Can't all be wild extroverts....Jo

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  8. er - excuse me but what IS wrong with chocolate chip cookies???

    Seriously, this resonated with me so much - the whole being in a cage thing, and wanting to want to be free and go out and get shitfaced and not care. I have been that angry woman with small children. It does pass. Baking passion fruit tartlets might help.

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  9. You articulate so well all the feelings I have had when my children were younger.
    A night out, even if it's just down the road to a cafe and you are home in bed by 11, might make you feel a little less caged up.
    It will all seem less awful once you are getting a bit more sleep. How is Sam's cold?

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    1. it is better but they've both got this fucking cough that won't shift. they cough like they're dying at night & I run in and they are fast asleep. boring.

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  10. Yes, what IS wrong with chocolate chip cookies? Bake Off this year is going a bit OTT - I mean, really, who makes their own filo pastry?! I don't have children but I look forward to your posts so much for both the exegesising and the no-nonsense recipes. Made your butternut squash lasagna (via Pippa Middleton) the other day and will definitely be trying these!

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  11. Thank you for articulating what I feel every single day! You're fabulous. xx

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  12. I think you really hit the nail here! Amazing post. You should write about motherhood or smth :)

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  13. I love this post, Esther. You have summed up exactly how I feel when my husband goes to for the evening and doesn't return until the wee small hours.

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  14. I don't know how I made it through the kids being little. Reading this post, knowing I am past that stage has me feeling a combination of both hand-wringing with the memory and schadenfreude for it being over. I was never a big-crowd-at-the-pub type but now they are older, a big glass (or five) of white wine on the veranda with a couple of friends is just bliss. It comes around quickly-ish.

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  15. I just don't agree that not having a father around or having one that isn't greatly involved is 'neither here nor there.' It's a big deal and I'm speaking as someone who went through that.

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    1. You misunderstand me: I don't mean absent with any sort of permanence. I mean all things being equal fathers TEND to be less vital than mothers. But you may disagree with that, too. Maybe I just mean that I believe myself - righty or wrongly - to be a more important presence than my husband, which is the whole problem. Anyway thanks for reading.

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  16. Never had kids but used to feel a bit like that as a student. Like if I took time off from my piles of homework there was a pressure to ENJOY MYSELF which made it hard to actually enjoy myself. I've learned to enjoy myself a lot more now, partly by doing it more often so there's less pressure, but partly by not letting other people define fun for me. If a lot of people around you like, e.g., getting drunk or going to bars, it can start to feel like that's the One True Way to Have Fun, but that's nonsense; it's just something some people happen to enjoy, not the actual definition of fun.

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    1. I'm glad you've said that, you've managed to articulate what I feel about myself! I consider myself to be 'fun' and 'interesting' but I have always been plagued by some people insisting I 'loosen up' because I don't see the appeal in being out late and getting rat arsed.

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  17. I also don't agree at all that it matters more if a mom is away than if a dad is. If you make that the reality it will become true, but it's the parents that invent that reality. I certainly didn't feel as a child that it was a bigger or smaller deal if one parent vs the other was away for an evening or for a week, and when I got old enough to pick up from people outside my family that some people thought I was 'supposed' to feel that way it just annoyed me, it didn't change my reality. Kids like things to be however they're used to, whatever that is for them, but beyond that it's the adults who create these things.

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  18. My favourite dessert that I have ever tasted was a passionfruit tart at The seafood restaurant a couple of years ago, so I know I would love these.
    As far as other halves go, I must have relaxed a fair bit over the last few years. Take, last Friday night. Husband came back very late, I didn't wake. He then admitted he has fell asleep on train and gone back & forth to Guilford twice before getting off the train at Guilford at some point & getting a cab back to Epsom. I just was annoyed he spent more money on the cab back from Guilford than he would have done getting one from London!

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  19. your blog might actually be saving my life at the moment.

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    1. bless you Lotte. come and visit any time x

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  20. Esther is obviously right about the mum/dad thing. Sadly.

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  21. Elizabeth Medovnik10 October 2013 01:12

    I still can't get my head around how my husband can just make an appointment at the dentist. If I need to do anything (and it's always 'need to do' rather than 'want to do', even though he'd be happy for me to go out) I have to check first whether he's available. And then cancel when he gets some work in. You explained it beautifully xx

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  22. I felt some of that anger too but after my last babies were weened (er at 15 months) I was sometimes out on the town until 5am and it was great! Occaisonally I had to go and do toy library duty at 9am on a Saturday morning afterwards, still reeking I'm sure. The other - much older middle-aged - mums took one look at me; received with joy and envy the story of my night and sent me off to count puzzle pieces for the morning. But these were slightly easier, less judgemental days in the mid-90s. I love passionfruit so much. I'm going to make those little tarts. Ta.

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  23. I rarely reply to blogs but yours made me sad. You are right about the mum/dad thing, but Giles seems to do his fair share of child care, is obviously devoted to you and the children, and you both seem to come from stable homes where there are good role models as parents. This is an intense and sometimes difficult time but as they get more independent things will be easier, though you are never entirely free of worry. I am nostalgic for this time in my life.

    I enjoy your blogs and recipes. It was lovely to see the photo of you and Sam in the Times recently.

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  24. Also, please don't be too hard on yourself as a mother! People can be judgmental but you are probably much more critical of yourself than them. Guilt is corrosive in many areas of our lives and it's part of motherhood, but don't succumb to too much of it!

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  25. I use the paper cases for fairy cakes to hold the beans when I bake-blind small pastry cases - saves faffing about with clingfilm or greaseproof paper.

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    1. Teenie thank you for this excellent and most instructive tip

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  26. I have two year old twins and everything you've said mirrors my own life down to the ocado shopping and the berserk, trembling with rage stalker sending furious text messages at 2 am. Highs and lows and all that. It will get better though. I was looking at our texts from the first year of our relationship which were all along the lines of 'why bang the door at 6.30 am when I've just put them down you CUNT. Get formula.' As we approach the third year they've got a lot less sweary so things must be improving and will continue to do so I'm sure.

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    1. Hahahaha I love that text!

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    2. I know hilarious. Loved it

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    3. Hahhaaaa! Yes! Same!

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  27. God, yes! I'm so glad it's not just me who gets the almost murderous red mist in the early hours of the morning!

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  28. Baking bean atheists...I laughed so much. This blog always cheers me up, its so fucking wise. Ditto the 'universal truth that all men are "Fun Dad" and all women are "Cross Mum". '

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  29. Oh Esther why weren't you blogging 25 years ago??!
    God I felt so frustrated but wasn't really able to work out or justify my feelings. I was also in a place where to not love being an earth mother was akin to to being a mass murderer so there was no vent to my fury/resentment or just "pissed offness".
    Your articulate/hilarous blog is an absolute joy to read.

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  30. Oh, all of this rings true, even though my kids are slightly older (2 and 4) and supposed to be less of an ALL ENCOMPASSING BALLACHE ALL THE TIME.
    Ahem.
    I love your searing honesty. Don't ever become one of those LYING female bloggers who act like having children is sunshine, rainbows and glittery shits 24/7.

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  31. This is totally irrelevant to your (fucking brilliant) blog post however am not on Twitter and therefore not sure how to add my v insightful tip re potty training there so.... anyway. Here it is. Wait until they are AT LEAST 3. Esp as you have a baby as well. Why the extra stress.... I am a secretly repressed pushy Jewish mother but held off on the potty training as my v stubborn toddler was having none of the smarties/stickers/etc. Anyway the outcome was I waited until I absolutely bad to do it at 3y2mnth and it was the easiest thing ever so not only did it involve being lazy it also involved being smug which is potentially my fave combination ever. I just bought 2 massive playmobil/cars bribes and hid them under the potty, whipped the nappy off and didn't look back. Not one accident ever! Smug! And lazy! X

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    1. you spake the truth! kitty knows exactly what I want her to do and why she just doesn't want to do it for some reason. as she is basically obliging about everything else, I'm loath to put pressure on because she must have her reasons and God knows you don't want to give little kids any complex botty/potty/poo issues or she might go mental at 17 and kill all her classmates with an uzi. thanks so much for taking the trouble to write. I really appreciate it.

      e x

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  32. My husband and I met when we both worked in PR. Since having our son 20 months ago, I have taken a part time PR job and, in my mind, he continues to live the PR ‘high life’. In reality, he does a lot of work stuff, is knackered and constantly feels guilty for either not being at home enough or not being at work enough. I envy his 60 minute commute where he gets to read a book or just do nothing. I envy the work trips where he gets to spend a night in a hotel and wake up by himself. In reality the commute is hell and the work trips tiring but still... I’m slowly adjusting to my new life. Where my son comes before a night out with the girls. Where I'm too frigging tired to socialise. Where if I do go out, I'm normally in bed by 11pm at the latest. Where I don’t want to have more than 2 glasses of wine because then I’ll be tired and grumpy with my son the next day. Where my life revolves around someone else’s wants and needs other than mine. Where I’m going to have to suck it up for God knows how many years given #2 child is due next year… Gulp.

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    1. so far, being pregnant + toddler was FAR worse than anything I've encountered yet with toddler + baby. anyway I hear you sista xxxx

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  33. My husband hardly every goes out due to his shift pattern but he has occasionally had a lads night and stayed out faaaar too late and I've fucking lost it. Once was when I was pregnant with baby two, his friends wanted him to have one last night of fun before the baby came. I was pissed off before he even went out. I was the one who was about to give birth and have a baby attached to me 24/7 for the foreseeable future. Why did he get a fucking night out and not me?!? He, of course, said I should go out for a girls night. Sure. That would be fun...girls night while a million months pregnant. Let me get right on that. Anyway, baby two will be 6 months old next week and I will start weaning her and maybe, just maybe, I will get to be completely child free for more than 30 minutes soon. -- Thank you for being so funny and so real, Esther.

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  34. You are so right. Next time I piss anyone off because I'm angry I will direct them here. I love your writing. Thank you for letting the rest of us know we're not the only ones!!!

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  35. this post made me want to cry; finally feeling understood sometimes it's so FRUSTRATING feeling like you're the one always stuck at home even if it's a job you happily chose to do. a while ago my husband went to see a moving during the work day when he suddenly had several hours free and when he told me after the fact i just blew up. It wasn't so much that i feel like he should ever ever be able to watch a movie but the feelings of "do you have ANY idea what i was doing while you were watching a MOVIE???" are overwhelming. Doesn't help that i had my toddler for the whole day and he decided to be difficult that day. Maddening!!!!!

    You must be so popular at kitty's nursery what with the constant baked goods. must steal this idea from you

    Veronica xxxxx

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  36. Dear Esther,
    This is my first comment on a blog and I just wanted to say that I LOVE your blog and your recipes (I even BOUGHT your book and downloaded it on my kindle ap and enjoy cooking) I've also started putting random words in capitals, which I find really satisfying. Anyhoo... I wondered if you'd be kind enought to add a bit more information as to fat/sugar/salt content on your recipies as my partner has just been diagnosed with daibetes and we're really watching what we eat now. Thanks ever so and please keep up the good work - I love it when I see I've got an email from you.
    Warmly,
    Bernie

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