Bough wow

What bet­ter way to en­joy the bounty from the groan­ing branches of our or­chards than a freshly baked tart? Filled to the brim with crisp ap­ples, and ac­com­pa­nied by an in­de­cent amount of jersey cream, there’s no de­light quite like it A

The Guardian - Cook - - King Of Puddings - Jeremy Lee

llens Farm was a favourite of mine, sup­ply­ing me of­ten with good pro­duce from their Ken­tish cherry or­chard. Tucked away be­hind high­banked roads near Sevenoaks, it was fa­mous pri­mar­ily for cob­nuts, but pro­duced a host of mar­vel­lous fruit boughs, too. The trees – in­stead of grow­ing in ser­ried ranks, stand­ing to at­ten­tion – were won­der­ful, an­cient, and grew in a seem­ingly ran­dom fash­ion to a great height.

To climb the trees and pick a fine har­vest there were a few of those lovely, old, not to men­tion clev­erly shaped, lad­ders that flared at the ground and nar­rowed as you climbed into the branches, laden as they were with the abun­dant dark fruits. Lured by the sel­dom-seen beau­ties in the cherry or­chard, I was up the lad­der in a trice. Within not even a minute, I was or­dered down off the lad­der by the gen­tlest farmer, who is­sued a kind rep­ri­mand that the lad­ders were of a great age and not so steady.

On the other side of the tree was a metal scaf­fold that had a plat­form set high enough to reach the up­per branches, by which their joy­ful bur­den could be ac­cessed more se­curely.

Abut­ting the cherry or­chard was a great field of cob­nuts that were har­vested by hand. A few South­down sheep grazed among the trees – a peer­less lamb that fed upon the or­chard’s wind­fall and made for mar­vel­lous eat­ing. There were plums, too, and a few pears as I re­call. And, of course, ap­ples.

I love ap­ples, de­light­ing in their myr­iad va­ri­eties and colours, and their vary­ing tex­tures and flavours, which range dra­mat­i­cally from sweet and crisp to the most mag­nif­i­cently sour. They chivvy along a joint of pork, or a duck or goose, very well in­deed. Com­potes and del­i­cate ap­ple sauces and sal­ads can brighten the Sun­day roast mar­vel­lously. That said, lit­tle com­pares to an ap­ple pie, that marvel of the Bri­tish ta­ble.

There is great joy to be had from ap­ples crammed into a pas­try case spread lib­er­ally with al­mond frangi­pane. Baked well un­til achiev­ing that mag­i­cal dark hue which so el­e­vates French bak­ing, the ap­ples yield into the frangi­pane, and all that re­mains is to fetch a great bowl of jersey cream. Should some cus­tard fea­ture, and per­haps a scoop of vanilla ice-cream too, then be­hold – a very good pud­ding.

1 Warm the oven to 170C/335F/gas 3½. Have ready a 24cm di­am­e­ter, 25mm deep (or there­abouts) fluted tart case – if pos­si­ble with a re­mov­able base. Chop the cold but­ter into small pieces and re­frig­er­ate again to keep them solid.

2 To make the pas­try, put the flour and but­ter into a bowl and gently rub to­gether un­til you have achieved a fine crumb. Add the sifted ic­ing sugar, the egg and the spoon of ice-cold wa­ter. Gently mix un­til a ball of dough forms. Knead this very gently un­til smooth. Flat­ten lightly into a disc and re­frig­er­ate.

3 Mean­while, make the frangi­pane. Put the but­ter and the sugar into a bowl and beat well for a minute. Add the egg yolk and beat again. Stir in the ground al­monds. Put this mix­ture into a clean bowl, cover and re­frig­er­ate.

4 Put the lemon juice into a large bowl. Peel each ap­ple and toss it in the lemon juice. Once done, quar­ter each ap­ple, re­move the core and cut each quar­ter into 2-3 slices, de­pend­ing on the size of the ap­ple. Toss the slices from time to time to keep dis­coloura­tion at bay.

5 Roll out the pas­try on a lightly floured sur­face. Line the tart case and re­frig­er­ate for at least half an hour.

6 Spread the frangi­pane over the bot­tom of the tart case. Start stud­ding the frangi­pane with the ap­ples, start­ing from the out­side in, mov­ing around the tart, adding as much ap­ple as the tart can take. It is con­ceiv­able that more ap­ple may be re­quired, so feel free to add at will. I like a tart brim­ming with ap­ple.

7 Sprin­kle the top with sugar and pop the tart into the oven (a tray be­neath might be ad­vis­able, to catch any rogue drips). Bake for an hour, check­ing from time to time that the tart is not colour­ing too en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. Lower the tem­per­a­ture to 130C/265F/gas ½ should the tart have coloured, but still seem un­done. Bake for a fur­ther 15 min­utes – so 75 min­utes in to­tal.

8 Re­move the tart from the oven and sit upon a rack. Once it has cooled and set­tled, re­move the tart from the case. Set the tart upon a hand­some dish. De­cant a great tub of jersey cream

... et voila.

Jeremy Lee is the chef­pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis res­tau­rant in Lon­don; @jere­myleeqv

A host of mar­vel­lous fruit boughs – won­der­ful, an­cient – grew to a great height, laden with abun­dant dark fruits

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