Tarte au citron

Tarte au Citron, Lemon Tart
Weekend dinner menu

Celeri Remoulade
Shin of beef stew, parsnip mash & spring greens
Cheese: Pont l’Eveque & Neufchâtel
Tarte au Citron

This was the menu for a relaxed pre-Christmas dinner with friends. I had brought back some cheese from a trip to Le Havre (of which more later), and Irene made a stew, so a sharp, crunchy starter and something light but a bit luxurious to finish seemed in order, hence this lemon tart.

I have been using this lemon tart recipe for over 30 years (as you will see from the Imperial measurements!). I was taught it by a friend who was a chef, and it has always received compliments. I now tend to use pastry made with an egg yolk, based on Delia’s sweet pastry recipe, but for many years I used a plain shortcrust, and actually I think it was just as good. To my mind the pastry shouldn’t be too rich or sweet – it’s there as a foil to the sharp, creamy filling.

Rowley Leigh had a very similar recipe in his FT column a couple of years ago – his filling is made in the same way, though with an additional egg yolk, and he uses a sweet pastry made with 2/3 butter to flour (180g butter/270g flour/75g caster sugar/3 egg yolks/2 tbsps cold water for the pastry and doubled quantities of the filling for a 3cm deep 24cm wide tart tin – though these quantities sound generous to me). Serves 8.

Pastry:
160g/6 oz flour
80g/3oz unsalted butter
1 egg yolk (keep the egg white)
1 tbsp cold water
Pinch salt

Filling:
2 lemons
4 large eggs
170g/6oz sugar
200ml/7oz double cream
Icing sugar to decorate (optional)

To make the pastry put all the ingredients into the food processor and process on the lowest speed until it starts to clump together. Turn out and knead briefly into a ball, then wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 mins to chill.

Roll out the pastry and line a lightly-greased tart tin with a removable base (mine is 25cm diameter and 2.5cm deep). Lightly whip the egg white until it is frothy, then brush it over the inside of the pastry case. Bake the pastry case blind at 200ºC/Gas 6 for about 15 mins until the surface is firm and light gold. Turn the oven down to 150ºC/Gas 2.

Wash the lemons, grate their zest and squeeze the juice. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat lightly with a wire whisk until the mixture is smooth and well blended. Pour in the cream and mix lightly. Stir in the lemon juice and zest and pour into the pastry case.

Bake for 40 mins until just set in the centre, but not coloured. (Rowley Leigh cooks the filling for 1 hour and 10 mins at 110ºC – I haven’t tried this yet). Dust the surface with icing sugar if you want to make it look pretty. Serve chilled with some raspberries and a spoonful of crème fraîche alongside if you’re feeling indulgent.

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