Tarte au citron
This is my most preferred pudding and a wonderful way to finish a meal. Any chef worthy of his name will have a lemon tart on his menu and this one has been with me since Harvey’s, my first ever restaurant – we made it twice a day: in the morning just before lunch service and again in the early evening around 7pm just before dinner, so it was always fresh and aromatic. This tart will serve eight. I suggest you don’t make it any smaller as it tends to disappear rather quickly. I generally allow my lemon tart to speak for itself, but you could add a little whipped cream or, as shown in the photograph, a small lemon soufflé to garnish.
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.
• Tip 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.
By Marco Pierre White, Marco Pierre White in Hell's Kitchen, courtesy of Edbury Press