Sunday, October 9

Custard Tart & Blackberry Compote

I had some friends over for dinner yesterday and one was a pastry chef at the highly acclaimed Castle Combe Manor Michelin starred restaurant. Always one to set myself up for a fall, I decided to make a delicate custard tart which proved to be a little stressful. Actually the end result was a triumph with thin biscuity pastry and a wobbly filling. After a bit of prodding chef Tom gave it the thumbs up. This is a great tart to have in your repertoire as it goes with so many fruits and sauces. I have done toffee bananas, red wine poached pears and honey roast figs before, just use what is in season. Feeds 6 to 8

Salted butter - 125g, ice cold and cubed
Icing sugar - 2 tbsp
2 medium eggs, beaten
Plain flour - 250g
9 egg yolks
500ml double cream
A splash of vanilla extract
1/3 nutmeg, grated
Caster sugar - 175g
Blackberries - 500g
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Roughly rub the butter into the flour and icing sugar - some smallish bits of butter in the mix are ok. Add one beaten egg and working as quickly and lightly as possible, mix and push the dough together, cling and chill in the fridge for 1/2 hour.

Beat the egg yolks together with the cream, vanilla extract, 75g of the caster sugar and nutmeg and set aside. Roll out the pastry as thinly as you can and then line a 12 inch loose bottomed flan dish with the pastry.  Crimp the pastry over the edge of the dish to stop the edges shrinking down during baking - don't trim. Make sure there are no holes in the pastry as the egg mix will leak out. Now cover the pastry base with cling film and fill the tart with baking beans or rice to stop the base puffing up. Bake for 20 mins at 150c then remove the beans and cling film, and bake for another 10 mins until the base is cooked. Brush with the other beaten egg to seal the tart then bake for 5 mins more. Sealing the tart base with cooked egg stops the pastry getting soggy - top tip mate. Now you can gently trim the edges of the tart with a serrated knife to get a perfect edge - use a gentle, single direction sawing motion - outwards only - being careful not to crack the pastry edges.

Turn the oven down to 120c and with the tart case in the oven, pour in the egg mix and bake for 30 to 40 mins until the egg mix has set but there is still a gentle wobble in the middle. It should wobble like a chubby ladies thigh (sorry if you find this crude - but this is the best description I have ever been given for the perfect consistency of a custard tart).

While your tart is baking, gently heat your blackberries with the lemon juice and the remaining 100g of sugar. When the juice starts to leach and the berries soften, remove from the heat. When the tart is cooked, allow to cool to just warm, and serve with the berries poured over at the last minute (obviously remove the outer tart ring beforehand so you can cut it!).

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