Back to lifestyle

Spring Sunshine Tarts

By Ella Risbridger

Thursday 6 March 2014 Food

Eating With My Fingers - and now Eating With My Fingers at NUS - is a long and rambling story about cooking your way through a crisis. I started writing recipes in the back of an ambulance as a way to keep calm; I carried on writing them in hospital waiting rooms, therapists' offices, and while waiting to pick up prescriptions. Cooking made me feel better. Writing made me feel better. Talking about mental health made me feel better. This is food to make you feel better. This is food that loves you right back. This is the best kind of comfort eating, and I am thrilled to be sharing it here. Talk to me, if you like! @missellabell

February is an intrinsically flimsy month, and I'm glad it's over. February is November, but with no hope of Christmas. February, with its twenty-eight days and unexpected silent "r": intrinsically flimsy as fuck, and I made these tarts on the first day of March, because these tarts are the antidote to February. These are tarts for March, sturdy and gorgeous and golden as the sun in high summer, and they are soft and crisp and glossy and sharp and sweet all at once. They are, in short, the cure for a winter of Februarys, bolstering up new March sunshine from start to glorious finish. 

I won't lie to you. It is a bit of a faff. It's a little bit fiddly, and takes a bit of time, but it's not difficult. You can make this. You can. Anyway, it's the sort of meditative making that lets you sort things out in your head, while you're making it: whisking neat circles in the lemon curd and the caramel, kneading almonds into butter, filling crisp pie crusts with sweet-sharp yellow lemon. It’s lovely, and supremely golden, and satisfying in all the ways. You made it, and you made it all yourself, and the kitchen smells sharp and lemony and fresh, and everything is golden-yellow, and February, flimsy, is crumbling absolutely under how good these tarts are.

Spring Sunshine Tarts; makes ~4 tarts, which serves probably eight, because these are rich. (I used these little flan tins, which are completely great); 30 mins prep; 40 mins cooling time.

(We're going to do this in three parts. First pastry. Then curd. Then caramel. Okay? Here we go.)

Almond Pastry

170g (1 1/3 cup) ordinary flour

60g (1/2 cup) ground almonds

110g (1/2 cup) butter

50g (1/2 cup) icing sugar

Two egg yolks

Two tbsp. cold water

Big bowl; tart tins

(Although I usually measure out in grammes, this recipe is actually easier, in practical terms, if you use the American cups, which is why I have put both.)

Sift the flour into a big bowl, add the ground almonds, and rub in the butter, until it is breadcrumb-texture. This is a very meditative thing, but it is important to open your book/press play before you start, because buttered hands are very impractical. Rub in the butter, and add the icing sugar. Stir in the egg yolks- my best way of getting the yolk out is to crack the egg into my palm and let the white go through my fingers into another cup, but YMMV- and the cold water. Less is more, with water: if your hand slips, add a shake more almonds, but really try not to. This dough goes from sticky-but-malleable to stupid very quickly. Gather together into a ball, and wrap up. Cling film, or greaseproof paper, or whatever, and chill for thirty minutes while you make the lemon curd and the caramel. Then, while the curd is cooling, take the pastry out of the fridge, roll it out, and fit it to each tin. Cut the same shape- to fit each tin- from greaseproof paper, and fill the paper-pastry-tin with baking beans. If you have no baking beans- and really, they are a ridiculous extravagance- rice works, too, or dry lentils. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees, until crisp.

Lemon Curd

Four unwaxed lemons

200g golden caster sugar (you could use any sugar, really, but golden is lovely) 100g butter

Four eggs, preferably the kind with very yellow yolks.

A whisk; a Pyrex bowl; a saucepan; a fine grater; a lemon juicer

This is Nigel Slater's lemon curd, and I make no apologies for that. Nigel Slater is a genius. A proper genius, and his lemon curd is astonishingly good. Of course, if you're lazy, you could skip this step, and buy lemon curd, but this is worlds away. It's tangy and soft and zesty, and it's glorious. First, zest your lemons. You may well have a proper Microplane thing; I, for some reason, have only a nutmeg grater. (What kind of person has a nutmeg grater and no microwave? This idiot, that's who.) Zest the lemons. It will not look like a lot of zest. That's okay. Juice the lemons. There will be a lot of juice. That's okay, too. Everything's okay. We're making sunshine tarts. Everything's okay. Bung all the lemon bits into the heatproof bowl. Weigh out the butter- cold!- and dice it; weigh out the sugar; put them in the bowl, too, and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water over a medium heat. The water should not touch the bowl, which is slightly tricky to gauge, but do your best. Whisk it briefly, and then turn your attention to those four eggs. Three of them, crack whole into a mug; from the fourth one we only need the yolk, as above. Break the eggs up lightly with a fork. Whisk the lemon mixture until the butter and sugar have melted; add the eggs, and whisk. Keep whisking. It's so gold, isn't it? So very gold. Leave on the medium heat, and whisk and whisk. It will come together, and thicken. It will be custardy in texture, and it will smell gorgeous, and lemony, and when it starts to cling to the thin wires on the whisk, you can turn off the heat and set the bowl, whole, on the side to cool.

Salted Caramel

125g Demerara sugar, the thick brown kind.

4 tablespoons of salted butter.Nobody spoons out butter. Guess this with your eyes. I used the end of a packet.

A good pinch of sea salt.

3 tablespoons of double cream.

Saucepan; whisk; greaseproof paper

This salted caramel is my Second Love Salt Caramel, and it is the best salted caramel. Like I wrote before, it's "fuck-off salty caramel-y dark dark sticky goodness, and it is sinfully good." It really is. I swear. It's filthy stuff, and it is perfect in a thin layer over these tarts. That's why I'm making you make it, even though it means you're going to have to wash up the saucepan, and the whisk. I'm sorry. It will be worth it, though. Promise. Dry the saucepan thoroughly, and tip in all the sugar; let it melt. It's magic, right? It's magic. When the sugar is liquid, take it off the heat, and stir in the butter, beating thoroughly; add the double cream and a good, proper pinch of sea salt. Return to the heat, and wait, while it spits and foams and bubbles like a witch's cauldron. Yes.

Tarts, assemble!

Take the blind-baked pastry cases; empty them of paper and beans; spoon yellow yellow curd generously into each dish. Optional next step, which makes it beyond remarkable: slice, very thinly, some marzipan; lattice it across the surface of the lemon curd. Pour over the caramel as thinly as you possibly can (or it will be almost impossible to eat, although still delicious), scatter over a little pinch of sea salt, and freeze. Forty minutes should do it. Bam. Serve. See? Yes. Fuck you, February. Here is sunshine. Here is something marvellous, and dark, and bright, and rich, and sharp, and chirpy. Here's a sunshine tart.

You can read more from Ella at Eating With My Fingers.