The Crooked Billet

Lemon Tart

Serves 8

Lemon Tart

Like so many of the puddings we enjoy in Britain, lemon tart is a custard – baked egg custard. A good lemon tart being a perfect finale to dinner or leisurely lunch. The pastry should be wafer thin & crispy, mouth-puckering zesty filling. Eat the lemon tart on the same day you bake it – you can’t serve it immediately after it’s cooked because the filling will be too runny. Let it rest & set for at least an hour. It’s at its best still slightly warm, still with a bit of a wobble. Thick cream & raspberries make the perfect partner. Try & eat the whole thing rather than refrigerating it – they’re not half as god from the fridge – the pastry softens & the filling loses its spark, loses its fragrance.

For the Flan Case:

500g plain flour

175g icing sugar

250g unsalted butter, diced

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grains from 1 vanilla pod

1½ eggs

50g sieved icing sugar to dust

For the Filling:

9 eggs

400g caster sugar

5 lemons (zest of 2 & juice of all 5)

250ml double cream

For the Flan Case: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Sieve the flour & icing sugar & rub in the butter. Make a well in the flour mixture & add the lemon zest & vanilla grains. Beat the eggs & add to the well. Kneed the mixture with your fingers quickly but very thoroughly until smooth, then wrap in cling film & leave to cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to size – just large enough to fill your flat tin, which should be 20cm in diameter & 3.75cm deep with a removable base.

Grease the tin & fold the dough into it, gently easing it into the corners, & ensuring an overhang of no less than 1cm.

Line the flan with greaseproof paper & fill with enough dry baking beans or lentils to ensure the sides as well as the base are weighted. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the beans & greaseproof paper & trim the overhang. Return the flan to the oven for another 10 minutes.

For the Lemon Filling: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the caster sugar & lemon zest. When the mixture is smooth, stir in the lemon juice & then fold in the cream. Continue to whisk until all the ingredients are thoroughly amalgamated & remove any froth from the top.

Turn the oven down to 120°C. Pour the cold filling into the still hot blind baked pastry case, if the pastry is still hot, it hasn’t shrunk, so no cracks. Consequently the filling won’t leak through the pastry. Bake the tart for 30 minutes.

Once baked, allow the tart to cool for an hour or two before serving. You really can’t beat a caramelised sugar coating.

Sieve 50g icing sugar over the tart & flash it briefly under a very hot grill until the sugar caramelises.