I adore fruit curd tarts, but finding the right balance between creamy unctuousness and tart citrus can be difficult for any but the most experienced pâtissier to achieve. Seville oranges are therefore a novice’s dream, as they are both sharp and bitter – but without too much of the intense mouth-puckering sourness of a lemon – and therefore make the most divine curd.
Sevilles have a very limited season (December-February), but they freeze well, either whole or already juiced, and if you make them into curd you can store them in this form in the fridge for a couple of months and bring a ray of sunshine to any day. They’re available for just a few more weeks so, having made my annual batch of marmalade, I looked to this tart recipe which is almost word-for-word from Nigella Lawson’s excellent book, “How To Eat“. Pastry making is more of a scientific procedure than any other form of cookery, and it requires precise balances of ingredients, but my inclusion of a little lemon peel in the base is an addition which doesn’t interfere with the balance of the pastry.
|Ingredients for the pastry:
120g extra fine plain flour
60g butter (cold from the fridge), in small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch finely grated lemon zest
|Ingredients for the filling:
3 eggs + 2 extra yolks
100g caster sugar
75g muscavado sugar
4 Seville oranges – zest & juice
150g butter, in small cubes
First, make the pastry case by mixing the flour and butter until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs (I recommend using a Magimix, or other food processor if possible, as it keeps the mixture cooler than rubbing-in with your fingers). Nigella recommends freezing the butter & flour for 10 mins before mixing, but so long as the butter is cold and hard, and you work quickly, this isn’t essential. Beat the egg yolk with the lemon juice and zest and add to the flour/butter mix, with the motor running on the processor, or whilst mixing with a fork if doing by hand. Keep mixing until the dough forms a smooth ball – you may need to add a few drops of iced water to bring it all together. Leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour, well wrapped in cling film.
Preheat the oven to 200oC/180fan/Gas mark 6. Roll the pastry out nice and thin, using as little flour as possible (you don’t want baked flour coating the base of your lovely tart!). Use the pastry to line a 20cm fluted loose-bottomed tart tin (the fluted edge isn’t essential, but it looks so pretty and is less likely to show up flaws in a novice pastry-maker). I like to gently prick the pastry base to stop it puffing up, but make sure you don’t plough big holes for the filling to pour out of. If you’re particularly concerned about shrinkage you can chill the pastry again, in the tart tin, for another 30 minutes, but I’m too impatient, and I’ve never had a problem yet. Trim the top edge of the tart with a small sharp knife, and line with a little sheet of greaseproof paper and some baking beans (or dried rice and lentils). A useful tip here is to dampen the greaseproof paper and scrunch it up into a ball before flattening out again, you’ll then be able to neatly line the soft delicate pastry without pressing big rigid marks in it. Put the tart tin on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and baking beans/rice and allow the tart to get some colour back in the oven for another 15 mins at the lower temperature of 180oC/160fan/Gas mark 4. Keep a beady eye on it for the second half of cooking – it may not require the full 15 minutes and overly browned pastry is a friend to no-one.
Allow the tart to cool whilst you make the filling. Off the hob, in a smallish heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and both sugars together (I recommend using a metal coil whisk, in which case don’t use your best non-stick pan!). You want it to be well mixed without any discernible traces of sugar granules, and definitely no lumps. Try not to get the sugar up the sides of the pan or it will stick. Whisk in the juice and zest of the Seville oranges, and then the butter cubes. Now put the pan on a medium hob and stir constantly and evenly whilst the mixture melts, seethes and starts to bubble. I’d switch to a wooden spoon at this stage, preferably one with a corner to it so you can get to all edges of the pan. Once it comes to the boil take it off the heat and pour straight into the tart shell and leave in the fridge to cool and set. When ready to serve, I recommend lightly glazing the top with a blowtorch (extra sugar should not be required, unless you’re going for a glass-like finish). Don’t use a grill as the heat will not be direct enough and you’ll end up with scorched edges on your pastry. Serve as it is or with a spoonful of creme fraiche.
Makes 1 x 20cm tart – enough to serve 4 greedy people, or 8 with a more restrained slice each.