The subtitle for Nigel Slater’s book Notes from the Larder is “A Kitchen Diary with Recipes.” It records a year of cooking, eating and thinking about food throughout the year. Here, Nigel shares his lemon tart recipe, baked in February but available for spreading cheer during any month.
For ingredients and step-by-step instructions, see below.
The book also offers fascinating insight into the British cookery writer’s preoccupation with detail: “A warm lemon will yield more juice than a cold one,” he advises, the riper the better. “I roll my lemons on the work surface before juicing them, pushing firmly down on them with the palm of my hand.” For squeezing, glass is okay, ditto stainless steel. But a wooden lemon reamer, according to Nigel, will give you the most juice. Yes, the seeds will drop in too but there’s nothing wrong with just fishing them out with your fingers.
Photograph by Jonathan Lovekin.
Nigel Slater’s Lemon Tart
The tart shell needs to be made with care so the edges don’t shrink as they cook. Otherwise, it wlll leak once the filling goes in. I keep a little bit of pastry aside for patching, so that if any cracks or gaps appear, I can patch them before I add the lemon custard.
For the pastry:
- All-purpose flour: a scant 1 1/2 cups (180g)
- Butter, 1/3 cup (90g)
- Superfine sugar: a tablespoon
- A large egg yolk
- A little water
For the filling:
- Eggs, 4, plus 1 extra egg yolk
- Superfine sugar: 1 1/4 cups (250g)
- Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
- Zest and juice of a small blood orange
- Lemon juice: 2/3 cup (160ml)
- Heavy cream: 3/4 cup (180ml)
Make the pastry: Put the flour in a food processor, add the butter, cut into pieces, and pulse into fine bread crumbs. If you prefer, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips. Add the sugar and egg yolk and just enough water to bring the mixture to a firm dough, either in the machine or by hand. The less water you add, the better–too much will cause your pastry shell to shrink as it bakes.
Transfer the dough to a floured board, pat it into a round, then roll it out a little larger than a 10-inch (24cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. Lift the pastry carefully into the pan, pushing it well into the corners and making certain there are no holes or tears. Trim away any overhanging pastry, then place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 degrees centigrade). Put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Line the pastry shell with foil, fill with pie weights, and slide it onto the hot baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and carefully lift out the pie weights and foil. Return the pastry shell to the oven for five minutes or so, until the surface is dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees (160 degrees centigrade).
Make the filling: break the eggs into a bowl and add the egg yolk and sugar. Grate the lemon and orange zest into the eggs. Pour in the orange and lemon juice. Whisk, by hand, until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, then stir in the cream.
Pour the mixture into the baked tart shell and slide carefully into the oven. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, till the filling is lightly set. Ideally, the center will still quiver when the pan is shaken gently.
Enough for 8.
Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary with Recipes, by Nigel Slater. Ten Speed Press, $40.