Pastel de Nata, an egg tart pastry dusted with cinnamon, has become very popular and widely available in the last few years. They go down really well with a cup of coffee.
These little pastries originate from Portugal, the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, now part of Lisbon. Apart from bacalhau, the Portuguese national dish, pasteis (plural) de Nata is their most famous.
History has it that the monks at the monastery used egg whites to stiffen the nun’s habits and made these little tarts with the excess of egg yolks leftover.
They sold the recipe to the owner of the local sugar refinery when the monastery closed down in 1834, one Domingos Rafael Alves. He opened his own bakery Pastéis de Belém in 1837, which survives to this day run by his descendants.
In London at the recently opened Santa Nata Bakery in Russell Street, Covent Garden, you can watch pastel de nata being made. You can sample them in their nearby Cafe de Nata in Old Compton Street, Soho, or branches in Hammersmith and Knightsbridge,
This recipe based on one by kazshaw at BBCgoodfood produces a nice homemade version of these little gems.
Pastel de Nata
- 1 Whole egg large
- 2 Egg yolks large
- 90 g Golden caster sugar
- 2 tbsp Cornflour
- 400 ml Milk full fat (blue top)
- 2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 Cinnamon stick
- Lemon juice
- 1 Sheet ready rolled puff pastry
- Icing sugar
- Lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin and pre-heat oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C /Gas 6
- Put egg, yolks, sugar & cornflour in a pan and mix well together then gradually add the milk until mixture is well mixed and smooth. Add some grated nutmeg, a squeeze of lemon juice, and the cinnamon stick.
- Place pan on medium heat and stir constantly until mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
- Put custard in a glass/ceramic bowl to cool and cover with cling film to prevent skin forming. Leave the cinnamon stick in until cool.
- Cust pastry sheet into two pieces, dust one piece generously with icing sugar, and place the second piece on top. Roll the pastry tightly, from the short side, into a log and cut the log into 12 even sized rounds.
- On a lightly floured board, roll each round into a disc (approx. 10cm) and press the pastry discs into the muffin tin.
- Spoon in the cooled custard and bake for 25mins until golden on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5mins then move to a cooling rack to finish cooling although they can be eaten warm.