Mel­low yel­low

A lemon tart from Jeremy Lee

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Jeremy Lee Jeremy Lee is the chef­pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis res­tau­rant in Lon­don; @jere­myleeqv

Abeau­ti­ful lemon – prefer­ably with leaves at­tached and picked some­where near Naples – has an almighty abil­ity to cheer even the most fraz­zled of cooks. De­picted in ev­ery form imag­in­able, they are a fruit that in­spires artists and, in more mod­ern times, pho­tog­ra­phers, al­most as much as they do chefs.

Lemons have an al­lure un­like any other fruit. They have be­come vi­tal to spark­ing up al­most any dish with an elu­sive vigour that only they can pro­vide. They fea­ture in an abun­dance of dishes, savoury as well as sweet – from dress­ing a leafy salad to fin­ish­ing a ca­per and black but­ter sauce one tips on a wing of charred skate for raie au beurre noir . And, when added to pud­dings, cakes, creams, cus­tards and bis­cuits, a lemon is the per­fect foil for any cloy­ing sweet­ness.

Like so many in­gre­di­ents, it is hard to imag­ine a time when lemons were rare and pre­cious fruits. That said, their cost is still almighty if it is the great, un­waxed lemons from the Amalfi you are buy­ing. There are myr­iad oth­ers, but just as it is only the white truf­fles from Alba make the grade, so it is with th­ese leg­endary lemons. It is not even the juice so much as the oils in the skin, when zested, that make the heart skip a beat.

Worry not: I shall not ask you to spend the month’s rent on lemons, although some­times it feels like that at Quo Vadis. Once we used to fill huge bas­kets with lemons in the re­cep­tion. How­ever, the heap seemed to di­min­ish rather quickly – it ap­peared ev­ery­one thought the lemons so lovely they would take one or two home with them. This ex­pense is not, thank­fully, nec­es­sary with this lemon tart, a pud­ding that sparks the imag­i­na­tion and gath­ers at­ten­tion like few oth­ers.

Now, there are a great many recipes for lemon tart; in­deed, there may be a real beauty when the lemons are in sea­son in win­ter. But I like this recipe very much, for it re­tains the finely grated zest, which adds a cu­ri­ous curd-like qual­ity – both homely and com­fort­ing. And, cru­cially, there is much le­mony zip.

Should you have a few pieces of can­died lemon peel at hand, to add some jovi­al­ity to the tart, by all means cut thin slices and strew them lib­er­ally around the edges. A bowl of whipped cream, as ever, seems some­how ap­pro­pri­ate.

Lemon tart

The pas­try is best made the day be­fore. Have ready a deep-fluted tart case, about 22cm wide by 2cm deep, with a re­mov­able base.

Serves 12 For the pas­try

170g flour, plus more for rolling 100g cold un­salted but­ter, cubed A pinch of salt 1 tsp ic­ing sugar 1 egg 1 tbsp cream

For the lemon filling

Zest and juice of 9 medium lemons 6 eggs 375g caster sugar 525g creme fraiche

6 tbsp rum

1 Set the oven to 170C/335F/gas 3½. Sift

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