What is a Nata?
The British know the Nata as Portuguese Custard Tart, and these are readily available throughout the United Kingdom, but its not quite the same. The Nata had its origin in the 18th century, deep in the cellars and kitchens of the Jeronimos monastery. The monks would use the egg whites to dye their habits and the surplus yolks would be used to make sweets and pastries to help finance the monastery. Of these, the Nata quickly outshone its competition and spread throughout Portugal to become its most popular pastry. In the years since, it has been exported to wherever the Portuguese have wondered to. In asia, through the Portuguese gateways of Macau, Malaca and Formosa, the Nata evolved into the egg tart, a more savoury, less creamy version. In France, Belgium and Switzerland the Nata remained essentially the same due to vigilance of the large Portuguese community present in those countries. In the UK, particularly England, the Portuguese custard tart have a multitude of variations. Some have a dough based, more biscuity base. Others the custard is more or less runny, or more or less sweet. The permutations are almost endless.
To be clear, a Nata has a puff pastry base; It is thick enough to insulate the cream, but not so much as to be unevenly cooked. It should be buttery, flakey and with a hint of smokiness. The custard cream is thick, rich and perfumed with lemon zest. The top is caremelised into a pleasant pattern of golden brown and cream. They can be served fresh, still warm off the oven or at room temperature, preferably with a pinch of cinnamon to enhance the flavours. As you can imagine, it is goes very much hand in hand with the Port, but it also accompanies tea or coffee (particularly an espresso) very well. Unlike the Port, there is no Protected Designation of Origin to serve the Nata, so we at Nata Pura took it upon ourselves to promote and oversee the widespread of the Nata into the global pastry it deserves to be, with due diligence to the original recipe and all the gastronomic value it entails.
You can taste for yourself what we are talking about. Nata Pura will proudly be present at the BBC Good Food Festival at Hampton Court Palace, 29 - 31 August 2015. Find your details here.