Jeremy Lee’s superb custard tarts recipe | King of puddings | Life and elegance


Ah, the glories of custard tarts. They are fairly irresistible, aren’t they? One age-old rule applies, nonetheless: that they be good. This, I’ve realized, is way simpler stated than finished.

I used to relatively just like the nursery-style recipe culled from the pages of The Constance Spry Cookery Book, however the prime-ministerial, clipped tones of that beatified author appear to have haunted the recipe by means of the many years, till it turned a barely cowed and saddened model of a once-promising surprise. It is a curious matter that some recipes, like some wines, don’t mature and age properly.

The Portuguese pastel de nata are so fantastic that it’s nearly pointless attempting to duplicate, not to mention higher them. That by no means stopped me attempting, though my failed makes an attempt ultimately did. Quite merely, they had been by no means nearly as good! Even Fabrico Proprio: The Design of Portuguese Semi-Industrial Confectionery, a unprecedented e-book I acquired on a go to to Leila’s Shop in London’s East End – which has a nata adorning the quilt, no much less – couldn’t help this cook dinner in crossing the successful line.

But on British soil, the custard tart taken to giddy heights by Fergus Henderson at St John left each different on the beginning submit, staring after this champion so endowed with eggs and cream inside a crust so darkish that each one different pretenders had been left far behind.

Sadly, a lunch at St John is a really uncommon deal with for a Soho cook dinner. I don’t get to scoff this almighty surprise typically sufficient. I’ve an excellent fondness for it and sigh mightily when passing by on the way in which to Soho – although an occasional, far more transportable, madeira cake from their bakery calms the passions very properly en route.

Still, there are occasions solely a custard tart will do. Particularly when pondering a deal with on a blustery day, when 1 is feeling listless and the day with out is of intemperate humour, stymying ideas of doing very a lot in any respect … then making a tray of custard tarts is relatively a satisfying prospect. They might properly function a pudding with a lot allure, so long as they’re saved out of attain of outstretched arms. Or only a beautiful afternoon deal with.

Care is required when rolling pastry, not so thick as to set the custard into bounciness, however not so skinny as to be fragile, cracking and bursting its banks, weeping scented tears of custard whereas within the oven (hardly an excellent disgrace, however a pity nonetheless).

The custard? Ah, it’s a scrumptious combination of eggs, cream and sugar, c’est tout. And, as it’s at all times the perfect and ever at hand, right here is the recipe from Fergus Henderson’s St John Cookbook. I really like them finest unadorned with only a sprinkling of nutmeg atop, however ought to a bowl of bramley apple compote simply occur to be at hand then spoon it on with some cream … That recipe? Ah, a narrative for one more day.

The very custard tarts

I confess to utilizing fairly one other pastry, however the unique St John filling stays my go-to. The pastry is finest made the day earlier than, time prepared. You will want 2 patty tins – sufficient for 20 little tarts.

Makes 20 little tarts
500g plain flour
100g icing sugar
A pinch of salt
300g unsalted butter
1 entire egg
2 egg yolks
1-2 tbsp ice-cold water

For the custard
1 vanilla pod
800ml double cream
9 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
1 entire nutmeg

1 Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt right into a bowl. Cut the chilly butter into small items and tip into the flour. Deftly and swiftly rub collectively right into a advantageous crumb.

2 Crack the egg right into a bowl, add the yolks and blend with a fork. Add this into the flour and butter with a pinch of salt and the ice-cold water. Knead swiftly right into a dough and form right into a roll. Slice in 1/2. Shape each bit right into a disc. Wrap every disc in clingfilm and refrigerate.

3 Cut 1 disc of pastry into 4 items. Roll out 1 quarter till solely barely thicker than a pound coin. Use a cutter to make little pastry discs to line your tart trays. This is a nice activity requiring a modest quantity of persistence and is finest carried out unrushed if in any respect doable. Refrigerate the entire tray and repeat with the remaining pastry. You ought to have sufficient for 20 little tarts. (The scraps are relatively good for making little jammy turnovers – only a thought).

4 Make little discs of silicon paper and line every tart case with them. Fill with rice, beans or some such weighty matter. Bake at 180C/350F/fuel 4 till the pastry is golden brown; even slightly darker – say 15-20 minutes. Remove the trays from the oven. With a lot persistence, take away the paper discs stuffed with rice and/or beans. Return the trays to the oven for a couple of minutes to make sure the underside is properly baked.

5 For the custard, cut up the vanilla pod lengthways. Scrape the seeds right into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, toss within the pod, and add the double cream. Gently convey slowly to a simmer, stirring typically.

6 Put the yolks in a big bowl. Add the sugar. Stir properly, then pour on the infused cream. Remove the vanilla pod (after which rinse and dry earlier than including to a sugar jar!). Let the custard accept a minute, then spoon away any froth on the floor. Decant right into a small jug.

7 Put 1 tray of tarts within the oven for a minute. Pulling the shelf out fastidiously, fill every tart from the jug, replenishing as wanted. Once all of the tarts are crammed, bake them till set, for 15-20 minutes, or till solely the wibbliest wobble disturbs the surfaces when agitated. Remove from the oven and sit the tin upon a cooling rack and repeat with the following tray.

8 Once all of the tarts are cooked, scrape the nutmeg generously over the tarts in a reasonably even bathe. Once the tarts have cooled – after 10-15 minutes, or perhaps longer – gently begin to loosen every tart from the tin and sit upon a tray. Once all are finished, sit all upon a good-looking board or tray or plate, then boil the kettle …

  • Jeremy Lee is the chef proprietor of Quo Vadis membership and restaurant in London’s Soho; @jeremyleeqv

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