Finally it feels that the spring is in full effect at long last. The cherry tree in my very small gardens is heavily ladened down with its beautiful pink blossom, and it’s even warm enough to sit out and enjoy the sun and the delights of the housing estate.
New season means new produce in season and this makes me very happy indeed.
So at the Supper club on Sunday I jumped at the chance of using the first of the new seasons produce. The starter was the Nettle and Wild Garlic soup which I wrote about a few weeks ago, slightly improved by adding a touch more potato and nutmeg to the recipe. Jersey Royal potato’s (obviously slathered in lots of butter), British Asparagus, Chard and Spring Welsh Lamb with Green Sauce followed for main course. Surprisingly the highlight for me for the first time in a long time was the desert of Lemon Tart. I say surprisingly, as the deserts which we have served recently have all been of the rib sticking variety due to the long cold winter. Let’s face it when it’s cold and dark pretty much all of the time, you can’t beat the comfort and warmth of a good crumble and homemade custard can you.
The lemon tart was the perfect way to end the meal, light, refreshing and of course filling. The recipe used was one of Marco Pierre Whites, which he used at Harvey’s and was passed on to me by the Boy Wonder.
Marco Pierre Whites Lemon Tart
500 g plain flour
175 g icing sugar
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, split open
11/2 eggs, beaten
400 g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 lemons
juice of 5 lemons
250 ml double cream
50 g icing sugar
sprigs of mint
1.Sift the flour and icing sugar on to a work surface and work in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add the lemon zest and seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. Add the eggs. Knead the mixture with your fingers, working as quickly as you can, until everything is combined to a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
2.Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
3.Grease a flan tin with a removable base that is 20 cm in diameter and 3.75 cm deep. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a disc large enough to line the tin and allowing an overhang of not less than 1 cm. Lay the pastry gently into the tin.
4.Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with enough dry baking beans or lentils (or indeed any dry pulses) to insure the sides as well as the bottom are weighted. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and greaseproof paper and trim off the overhanging pastry, then return the flan case to the oven to bake for a further 10 minutes.
5.Meanwhile, make the lemon filling. Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the cream. Continue to whisk until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Skim any froth from the top.
6.Reduce the oven temperature 120°C. Pour the cold filling into the hot pastry case (this will insure that the case is sealed). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and set for about an hour.
7.When ready to serve, preheat the grill to very hot. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the tart and place it under the grill to caramelize the sugar to a light golden brown. Alternatively, you can just sprinkle the tart with icing sugar without caramelizing it. Cut the tart into slices and decorate each with a sprig of mint.
The secret of a really good lemon tart is that the filling should be firm and clear and the pastry light and crisp. It should never be cut immediately after it is cooked as it needs time to cool and set for at least an hour, or the filling will be too runny.
What can be said apart from the fact that all plates which were brought back to be washed up where clean and all that was left to photo were two small slivers left from cutting the four large tarts which were baked. Mind you, these didn’t last long once the washing up and cleaning up was done. They were devoured in seconds by me, Lucy and Denise.