s the early evenings of late autumn make way for the darkening skies of winter, thoughts turn to tarts and cakes, custards and creams. The bustle of the kitchen is cheery. The clutter and clatter of pans, tart cases and cake tins is as invigorating as the purpose of nourishing and warming those we hold dear. The home warms to the aromas caught on the steam, filling the house and sending spirits and appetites soaring at the delightful promise of eating well.
The pleasing pairing of buttermilk and lemon curd with a small spoonful of the very best Jersey cream is a happy conceit.
Make 8 pots or glasses
silver gelatine sheets 1½
vanilla pod 1
caster sugar 60g
best double cream 250ml
lemon curd 8 tsp (see recipe below)
Jersey cream thick or pouring, to serve
Lay out white pots or glasses. Soak the gelatine sheets in cold water and let soften.
Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds with a knife. Put the seeds into a pan and add the pod. Pour in the buttermilk. Add the sugar and double cream. Heat all this to just below a boil. Remove from the heat and remove the vanilla pod.
Lift the gelatine from the water and squeeze out any excess. Add the gelatine to the infused cream and stir well, ensuring the gelatine dissolves completely. Stir well. Strain the mixture through a sieve and pour into the pots or glasses. Cool, then cover and refrigerate.
When all is ready and requiring to be served, place a teaspoon of lemon curd on each buttermilk pudding then a modest pouring or dollop of Jersey cream.
Make lots, for it is very good for so many other lovely things.
Makes a medium jar
caster sugar 175g
best unsalted butter 150g
Set a pan of water to simmer on the cooker. Zest the rind from the lemons very finely, then juice the fruit. Crack the eggs into a bowl large enough to sit on the pan. Whisk the eggs with the sugar, then add the butter and zest and juice of the lemons. Stirring all the while, cook the lemon curd for 20-25 minutes, or until it thickens. Should the curd be on the thin side after this time, cook for a further 10 minutes or so. Pass through a sieve then transfer into a pot or jar. Cool and store in the refrigerator till needed.
Chocolate, prune and almond tart
A harmonious trinity of chocolate, prunes and almonds makes a splendid tart.
best 70% cocoa chocolate 125g
whole prunes 12 – I love Agen prunes
Jersey cream, roasted almonds and icing sugar to serve
For the pastry:
plain flour 250g
icing sugar 25g
unsalted butter 125g, cold and cut in pieces
egg yolks 2
salt 1 pinch
cold water 1 tsp
For the frangipane:
blanched whole almonds 500g
unsalted butter 500g, softened
caster sugar 250g
eggs 4, at room temperature
For the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar over the cold butter. With nimble moves make this into a fine crumb. Add in the egg, salt and water. Knead this deftly, though lightly, into a dough. Form the dough into a flattened round and wrap well in clingfilm. Refrigerate. This will benefit being made the night before.
For the frangipane, grind the nuts into a coarse crumb. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar well until mixed. Crack the eggs into a jug and mix with a fork. Pour the eggs gradually on to the butter and sugar, mixing in. Add the almonds and mix well. Refrigerate until needed. This also benefits greatly from being made the night before.
Roll out the pastry into a large disc and line a 30cm diameter x 4cm deep-fluted, loose-bottomed tart case. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Coarsely chop the chocolate. Stone and coarsely chop the prunes, then mix both roughly through the frangipane. Handle the mixture in clods into the tart, resisting the urge to smooth and even the finish.
Heat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Place the tart on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour. Reduce the temperature to 120C/gas mark ½ and bake for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Best served with the finest Jersey cream. A smattering of roast chopped almonds and a dusting of icing sugar is always rather jolly for a final flourish.
Olive oil and Sauternes cake, poached pears and custard
I have always adored the elegant simplicity of this dish and in particular their puddings. The sweet honeyed wine partnered with poached pears and a curd perfumed with vanilla and bay results in an elegant pudding.
egg whites 2
caster sugar 150g
lemon and orange peel a mixture, finely pared and sliced to fill 1 tbsp
plain flour 125g, sifted
sea salt ½ tsp
best olive oil 115ml
For the poached pears:
vanilla pod 1
bay leaves 5
caster sugar 300g
ginger 1 small knob, peeled and sliced thinly
white wine 350ml
cold water 500ml
For the custard:
bay leaves 2
lemon peel 1 strip
vanilla pod 1 (use the pod from the pears)
milk 250ml, the creamiest you can find
caster sugar 50g
egg yolks 4
Preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4. Line a 22cm diameter cake tin with greaseproof paper, then lightly butter the paper.
Separate the egg yolks into one bowl and the whites, and 2 additional whites, into another. Add three-quarters of the sugar to the yolks and beat until they are voluminous. Whisk the whites until they are peaked, then whisk in the remaining sugar until peaked once more.
Alternate spoonfuls of beaten egg whites and flour to the yolks and sugar, incorporating the pared citrus rind. Then alternate the olive oil and Sauternes. Decant the cake batter into the tin.
Place the cake in the oven, lower the temperature to 160C/gas mark 3 and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 120C/gas mark ½ and bake for a further 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, and cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the poached pears. Peel the rinds from the lemon and orange. Place the rinds in a large pan with the vanilla, bay, sugar, ginger, wine and water. Bring this to a simmer.
Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl. Peel the pears and rub each with lemon juice. Place the pears in the simmering syrup and cover with a disc of paper. Place a plate atop to ensure the fruits are submerged and cook evenly. Pears cook differently depending on ripeness and size. They will certainly take 40 minutes on a gentle simmer, requiring a check every few minutes thereafter. When they have a beautiful translucence, and piercing with a sharp knife causes the flesh to yield, remove the pot from the stove and let cool.
To make the custard, place the bay leaves, strip of lemon and vanilla pod in a pot with the milk. Bring this to a simmer, then let it sit and infuse for 10 minutes. Stir together the sugar and the egg yolks until combined. Stir in the infused milk. Place the pot on the stove, pour in the custard and cook gently, stirring all the while until quite cooked through and thickened. Remove from the heat and pour through a sieve into a jug. Cool, then refrigerate until needed.
The prettiest serving is the cake dusted with icing sugar, the pears in their syrup in a bowl, and the cold custard in a jug.