A lemon tart from Jeremy Lee
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.
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