Saturday, April 09, 2022

Weekend Cooking/Blog tour: The Custard Tart Cafe by the Sea by Isabella May

Welcome to this week's edition of Weekend Cooking which doubles as a stop on the blog tour for The Custard Tart Cafe by the Sea by Isabella May.

Willow fell in love with delicious pastel de natas, Portuguese custard tarts, when she visited the Algarve with her parents as a teenager. From this humble first taste, Willow is about to open the doors on her own business which specialises in custard tarts, albeit ones of many different flavours. Its location is at the end of the iconic pier at Weston-Super-Mare on the British coast and decorated with some of the famous Portuguese style tiles. The challenge for Willow is to make the cafe a success year round, not just during the busy summer season when the tourists are attracted to the town.

The last thing that a new business needs is a troublemaker who is so incensed by the idea of someone playing with the traditional flavours of pastel de natas that he causes a scene in the cafe, and even worse starts a petition for her business to be closed down. For Willow, it doesn't matter that Tiago Willis is incredibly handsome, he is an instant enemy, and she, along with her friends and family are soon plotting ways to get back at him.

After the frantic stress associated with starting a business, Willow is convinced to leave her cafe in the capable hands of her staff and spend a week in Portugal with her closest girlfriends. And yet, fate is cruel at times. The last person she wants to see is Tiago and yet she keeps on bumping into him. And he keeps on wanting to explain why he is so passionate about the sanctity of the traditional recipe.

This novel is full of delicious sounding flavour combinations, and I am sure that I would struggle to decide between them all should I ever find myself in such a cafe. In fact I might have to resort the same method as Frank, the first customer ever in the cafe. "I'm a huge believer in the Countdown number game methodology when it comes to decision making. Give me two of the same from the top, a differnent from the middle, and three the same from the bottom." There are lots of current pop culture references throughout the book but this one did make me smile!

Of course, being a romance, somehow Willow and Tiago will work out their differences and see that they aren't enemies at all. Whilist Tiago was a bit of a dick at the beginning of the book, Willow was super stubborn at the end of the book, even when it was obvious that Tiago was doing everything he could to earn her forgiveness.

This was a fun book to read. Perfect for when you need something easy, which is exactly what I need right now when work is so busy.

I thought I would share just one passage about the history of pastel de nata from the book.

"Pastels de nata are ancient. Magically so in my opinion. They were first sold back in the 1830s in Lisbon but the pastries are believed to have been baked way before that. It's believed they came about by chance. Egg whites were actually mainly used to starch clothes in thos days but the monastery would often have an excess. The monks and nuns would use them up by baking them. That's why you'll find little hatches built into the walls of monasteries in many parts of the world. They made sweet pastries out of the leftover egg whites, and served, and sold them out of the hatches to passersby, to help with the upkeep of the monastery."

I know the monasteries-making-sweet-treats part of this tale and normally I would challenge thisl evel of mansplaining in a heartbeat, bt this evening I choose to keep quiet, sensing there is some alchemy to come.

"Knowing the great secret of the pastel de nata recipe, the nun on the run from Lisbon - the one just mentioned - decided she couldn't possibly take it to her grave. To cut a very long story short, my ancestors took her in when she fled to the south. They ran a small bakery back then - exactly where Grannie's is today. They mainly sold bread in those days, as other ingredients were thin on the ground, but the had a spare room and big hearts, so they gave the nun refuge when noone else could or would. As a mark of her gratitude, and because she belieed that religion kept too many useful secrets from the masses, she spilled thebeans and shared what we believe to be the original pastel de nata recipe with them.

"Honestly? So those tarts from earlier derive from the real deal recipe?

There were a number of references to other Portuguese foods that had my mouth watering, so I might see if I can find any recipes for those, but for this week, I was inspired to make these custard tarts for morning tea at work, and they went down a treat.

Double Vanilla Portuguese Custard Tarts


6 large egg yolks
1 cup + 1 tbsp (130g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (50g) cornflour
Pinch salt
300ml thickened cream
300ml milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp vanilla bean paste


2 vanilla bean pods
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 sheets (24 cm x 24 cm) store bought frozen puff pastry, partially thawed
50g butter, melted

For the custard

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and a pinch of salt in a bowl to combine, then whisk in cream, milk, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. Transfer to a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat (5 minutes). Whisk continuously on medium-high until thick and smooth (5-10 minutes). Transfer custard to a bowl, cover with cling wrap and chill until cool (1-2 hours).

For the pastry

Preheat oven to 210°C (fan forced). Using a sharp knife, split vanilla bean pods length ways and scrape seeds out with tip of knife. Mix vanilla seeds, sugar and cinnamon until combined. Sprinkle one third of mixture evenly over one pastry sheet. Cover with another pastry sheet and sprinkle with another third of mixture. Repeat with remaining pastry and mixture sheet. Cover pastry with baking paper and press together using a rolling pin. Remove paper and roll pastry together into a log. Using a sharp knife, cut log into 18 even pieces.

Lightly grease 18 x muffin holes (of 2 x muffin tins) with melted butter (this helps the pastry shells stay flaky and crisp).Roll pastry pieces out to 10cm circles on a lightly floured bench. Gently press pastry into muffin tin holes. Remove custard from fridge. Fill muffin holes with 1 ½ - 2 tablespoons of custard.

Bake for 25 minutes or until pastry is crisp and flaky and custard is golden. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

And what would Tiago make of my tarts? Welll, I am thinking that they are inspired by rather than actual Portuguese custart tarts, so he might not have loved them (especially at the beginning of the book), but they do taste delicious. One of my co-workers said it was the best custard tart she had tasted which is high praise.

They are definitely worth making the effort to cook, even if the pastry part is a little fiddly!

Thanks to Rachels Random Resources for a copy of the book for review purposes

Rating 3.5/5

Weekly meals

Saturday - 
Sunday - Roast chicken and vegies
Monday - Beef, Mushroom and broccolini
Tuesday - Beef stroganoff
 Wednesday - Chicken parma, mash and beans
Thursday - Takeaway
Friday - Out for dinner

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. Sounds like good escape reading. Those tarts look amazing -- but anything with puff pastry is a winner in my book.

    1. The author has a heap of foodie romances BFR!

  2. Your mention of custard tarts from many cuisines intrigues me. I know the ones from Hong Kong but I wondered what else besides that and the Portuguese ones. The motive of the guy who wanted to shut down the cafe sounds a bit contrived!

    best…mae at

    1. took me a while to warm up to him Mae!

      I recently posted a South African version, and there are egg custard tarts in British/Australian food.

  3. Thanks for the recipe for the custard tart, my goodness it looks so rich. I could eat more than I should.
    I like the sound of the book and the setting in both England & Portugal.

    1. I can't think of many other books I have read set in Portugal Tina!

  4. Those little custard tarts look absolutely amazing. Not being a baker, I can only imagine how much your family appreciates all the wonderful baking your do. I appreciate this weekly Linky .thanks for hosting.

    1. Thanks for your ongoing participation! I appreciate you!

  5. We have a large Portuguese population so we get great custard tarts!

    1. I have had them occasionally here but they aren't everywhere Jackie!

  6. Oh I do love me a wobbly custard tart:-) Yours look great! Thanks for hosting.

  7. The book and the tarts both sound wonderful!

    1. I will definitely be making the tarts again. I don't often reread though