Jamie Oliver’s Quick Portuguese Custard Tarts for the Lunar New Year

Eggy, warm custard tar.ts are perfect for the Lunar New Year or any other occasion.

There are many symbolic dishes that will grace the table when folks celebrate Chinese New Year on Feb. 10.

A whole fish and whole chicken for family togetherness. Candied melon seeds as a wish for a sweet new year. And long-life noodles to foster many more years to come of such celebrations.

For me, though, it’s all about the custard tarts.

OK, custard tarts may be more associated with dim sum outings, rather than necessarily any Chinese New Year festivities.

But can you blame me for hankering for them? Who doesn’t love a warm, eggy custard tart with a crust so flaky that shards of pastry cascade all over your clothes when you bite into one?

Leave it to an Englishman to come up with a brilliant version, too.

That would be Jamie Oliver, whose cookbook, “Meals in Minutes” (Hyperion), I received a review copy of last year. The book is set up in a unique style: Recipes are grouped into complete menus that are designed to be cooked and on the table in about 30 minutes. As such, the ingredients are listed all together for all four dishes that make up each menu. And cooking directions have you moving back and forth from one dish to another, just like you would in your own kitchen when preparing a holiday meal made up of many dishes.

The “Quick Portuguese Tarts” is the finale to a menu that also includes “Piri Piri Chicken,” “Dressed Potatoes” and “Arugula Salad.”

Truth be told, though, I only made the tarts. What can I say? I just couldn’t help but zero in on the pastry part.

Because you use purchased frozen puff pastry to form the tart shells, these are a breeze to make. The filling is just egg, sugar, vanilla, heavy cream or creme fraiche, and orange zest.

Purchased puff-pastry is thawed, then rolled up jelly roll-style before being sliced into six equal portions.

Use your floured thumbs to press and flatten a puff pastry portion into the muffin pan.

These tarts get an added bonus of an orange caramel poured over the top after baking. Although I loved the sort of burnt orange sweetness the caramel attains, I’m not sure it’s needed. As the caramel cools, it sets up and gets quite sticky. So much so that when you bite into a tart, the caramel ends up sticking to your molars pretty fiercely, detracting from the lovely creamy, smoothness of the custard. Maybe it’s the love of the Brits for sticky toffee pudding that prompted Oliver to add the caramel to the tarts. But I think it’s like that last accessory you’re tempted to put on after getting dressed for the day — probably unnecessary in the long run.

I’d definitely make these tarts again without the caramel. The puff pastry — and do buy the all-butter kind — makes a wonderful crisp container for the comforting custard within.

Enjoy one for the Year of the Snake. Or just because you can.

Jamie Oliver’s Quick Portuguese Custard Tarts

(Makes 6)

All-purpose flour for dusting

1 large sheet all-butter puff pastry (14-ounce package), thawed if frozen

Ground cinnamon

1/2 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract

5 tablespoons superfine sugar

1 orange

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dust a clean surface with flour. Unfold the sheet of pastry and cut an 8-inch square from the pastry. Put the trimmings into the refrigerator for another use. Sprinkle over a few good pinches of ground cinnamon, then roll the pastry into a jelly roll shape and cut into 6 rounds. Put these into 6 of the cups in a standard-size muffin pan, and use your thumbs (lightly flouring them makes the job easier)  to stretch and mold the pastry into the cups so the bottom is flat and the pastry comes up to the top. Put on the top shelf of the oven and cook for around 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Spoon creme fraiche or heavy cream into a small bowl. Add the egg, vanilla paste or extract, 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar, and the zest of 1 orange. Mix well.

Take the muffin pan out of the oven, and use a teaspoon to press the puffed-up pastry back to the sides to make room for the filling. Spoon the creme fraiche mixture into the tart cases, and return to the top shelf of the oven. Set the timer for 8 minutes.

Put a small saucepan on high heat. Squeeze in the juice from the zested orange and add 1/4 cup of superfine sugar. Stir and keep a good eye on it, but remember caramel can burn badly, so don’t touch or taste.

Remove the tarts from the oven. Pour some caramel over each tart (they’ll still be wobbly, but that’s good). Put aside to set. Then, serve.

Adapted from “Meals in Minutes” by Jamie Oliver

More Lunar New Year-Type Recipes: Whole Roast Chicken with Ginger and Soy-Whiskey Glaze by Jean-Georges Vongerichten

And: Two Different Chinese Almond Cookies

And: Baked Char Siu Baos by Andrea Nguyen

And: Chinese Steamed Buns Made From Biscuit Dough

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  • A lovely recipe! Those tartlets look wonderful.



  • Jamie Oliver had a show of the same title last year that I watched on BBC America. It was super easy dishes but I felt tired watching him cooking an entire meal (typically three dishes and a drink) in 30 minutes. … Home-made tarts sound amazing. I love egg tarts, and they’re always great freshly baked. I wonder if he did the caramel topping trying to mimick the brownish topping of Portuguese style tarts? I’m not sure what’s the traditional topping, but for some reason the Portuguese egg tarts (super popular in Macau) have a brownish topping, almost like it’s been brulee. So maybe he was going for that. I just love the custard part!

  • OMG. I miss those tarts! The last time I had those was in HK.

  • love the way that the pastry is used in this recipe! and custard. well custard is always a good thing!

  • I love Portuguese custard tarts, I buy them often because they are so hard for me to make! Yours look great though.

  • The all-butter puff pastry is so much better than the usual brand one sees. More expensive, but wonderful flavor. Anyway, great looking tarts! Definitely something to try – thanks for this.

  • What a brilliant concept for a cookbook! I’m surprised I haven’t seen anything like that before, because it makes total sense.

  • that method for getting a neat puff pastry crust is brilliant! i’m totally adopting that and putting it to use immediately. 🙂

  • Carolyn, those look absolutely fabulous. I LOVE tarts like these…leave it to Jamie.

  • Dig the puff pastry trick! I LOVE custard tarts at dim sum… it’s time I tried making my own. Thanks! 🙂

  • Egg tarts are one of those things that I can never get tired of and trust me I have been having egg tarts since I was little. This recipe looks very easy and I would love to try it soon. Thanks for sharing!

  • Oh my – If I had these sitting on the counter they would be gone by the end of the day! What tasty little tarts!

  • I just made these tarts and they turned out amazing! I remember watching Jamie make them on a TV show and bookmarked the recipe. The only change I would make next time is to roll out the pastry and cut circles for the tart shells. I prefer thinner pastry shells. I doubled the recipe and made 12 tarts (whole package of pastry) … my partner and I ate 9 for dessert!

  • Custard Tarts are a guilty pleasure of mine. When we go for Dim Sum, I tend to eat (many) of them before I eat anything else! I will definitely try to make these.

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  • I made these twice – well once according to the recipe. I did roll up the puff pastry jelly roll fashion but rather than press it with my fingers, I used a rolling pin to make a circle. When baked, it puffed up too much – I should have used the spoon to press it back. Anyway, there wasn’t much room for the filling. I found the custard a bit curdled after baking. So the next time I took the puff pastry, cut out 2 1/2″ circles with a drinking glass, rolled them out with the rolling pin and fit them into the muffin cups. They puffed so much, I had no choice but to use a teaspoon to press the dough and make a ‘cup’. I had about 1/2 of the heavy cream mixture, from above. Took 4 more egg yolks, a few Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 cup milk, beat until the sugar dissolved – about 3-4 minutes since I just had regular granulated. I mixed it with the heavy cream mixture, put on the stove over medium heat in a very heavy saucepan. Heated it until just beginning to boil, stirring constantly. I let this cool a bit then put plastic wrap on top. I actually did this before I cut the pastry into circles. So the filling was quite cool when I spooned it into the baked pastry cups. Since the dough was so much thinner the second time, the cups contained a lot more filling, so they were barely warm after 8 minutes, so I baked them 3 more. Total 11 minutes. Came out pretty close to perfect.

  • Jaroslaw99: Glad to hear you were successful making them. They are a true treat. Enjoy!

  • I should add rolling the puff pastry into a jelly-roll style log kept the shape of the cup after baking, so I will just make the slices smaller before rolling into a circle.

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