Lemons: A little slice of sunshine

A little slice of sunshine, lemon tart

A little slice of sunshine, lemon tart - Credit: Archant

Lemons in the supermarket are so commonplace that it’s easy to take them for granted.

But in this country we can grow this versatile fruit only in a hot house or a conservatory – and it always seems like a miracle to be able to grow, pick and cook with such a wonderfully exotic ingredient.

In the right climate the lemon tree blooms all year and can have flowers, ripe and unripe fruit all at the same time. We use lemons for so many things, but nothing can beat the perfect combination of sweetness and acidity in a lemon tart.

This recipe can be made in the traditional way with a lemon custard. Alternatively, you can make the pastry and, once blind-baked, you can fill the case with homemade lemon or orange curd.

For a 20cm/8inch tart, serves 6.

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170g/6oz plain flour

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4 eggs

A pinch of salt

1 yolk

85g/3oz-unsalted butter

200g/7oz caster sugar

3 egg yolks

150mls/1/4 pint double cream

85g/3oz caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

A few drops of vanilla essence

To make the pastry in a food processor

Place the softened butter and the sugar in the processor. Blend until combined and add the yolks and vanilla. Allow to become just mixed and then add the flour and salt. Pulse the machine so the flour is not quite mixed in, turn out onto the table and finish combining the flour using a palette knife in a drawing-down motion. This is to prevent the flour becoming over-worked and the pastry tough.

Shape into a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill for at least an hour.

To make the pastry by hand

Sift the flour and salt onto a tabletop, make a large well and place the butter, yolks, vanilla and sugar in the centre. Using fingertips, work the butter into the yolks, sugar and vanilla until the mixture resembles scrambled eggs.

Now bring in the flour, flick it on top of the butter mix with a palette knife and cut the mixture together with a chopping action.

When it is all one colour, finish combining the flour using a palette knife in a drawing-down motion.

Shape into a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill for at least an hour.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface until it is the thickness of a £1 coin and line the tart tin. Chill again until firm.

Blind-bake using greaseproof paper and baking weights for 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 190C/375F/gas mark 5.

Meanwhile, make the filling

Mix the eggs and yolk with the sugar and whisk lightly until combined. Add the cream, zest and juice and whisk again.

Remove the baking weights from the pastry case and return the case to the lower shelf of the oven until dry and crisp. It should be pale biscuit colour. Allow the case to cool if you have time.

Pour the filling into the case and return to the lower shelf at 150C/300F/gas mark 2.

Cook for 30/40 minutes until set. Do not allow it to puff up at all as this means it is boiling and the mix has curdled.

Allow to cool and serve with raspberry coulis.

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