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The Red Currant Conundrum

We had another bumper crop of red currants this year but what are you to do with them? Jelly is all well and good but I still have some in the cupboard from last year (and I suspect it may have a cousin or two lurking in the dark recesses of the larder). It is a pity that we do not make more use of them. They used to be incredibly popular. A few red currants would impart a bit of acidity in savoury recipes (much like we would use lemon juice today).

Jane Grigson came to the rescue (again) with the following recipe taken from her Fruit Book. Jane refers to this as ‘burnt currant tart’ which seems a bit extreme (it certainly shouldn’t be charred). To avoid any uneven charring I make the caramel separately then blitz to a fine powder. Just before serving I sprinkle this over the tart then use a blow torch to melt it again. You can of course use either red or black currants or even a combination of the two (which I have done here on account of only having a meagre crop of black currants this year).

caramelised currant tart

Caramelised Currant Tart

Ingredients (Serves 8)

200g plain flour

100g unsalted butter, cubed

50g ground hazelnuts

3 tbsp icing sugar

50ml whipping cream plus a little water (if necessary) to bind

225g red or black currants (or a mixture of the two), stalks removed

1 tsp ground cinnamon

50g granulated sugar plus extra if needed

1 tsp arrowroot or cornflour mixed with 2 tsp cold water

2 tbsp fruit liqueur e.g. creme de cassis

250ml whipping cream

1 vanilla pod, split down the middle

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

3 tbsp/45g caster sugar plus 75g

  1. To make the pastry sieve the flour into a bowl then run in the butter. Stir in the ground hazelnuts and icing sugar then add the cream to bind the dough (add a little water if the mixture seems too dry). Form the dough into a disc then refrigerate for at least one hour.

  2. Place the currants, cinnamon and granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Gently heat the fruit until the juices start to ooze out. Taste the mixture and add more sugar if the compot is too tart. Pour in the arrowroot then stir until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat then stir in the liqueur. Allow to cool.

  3. Use a separate pan to heat the cream with the vanilla pod to boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse.

  4. Preheat the oven to 200℃.

  5. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of around 3-5mm. Use it to line a 23cm x 3cm deep flan tin. Leave a little pastry over hanging the top edge of the tin but trim off any excess and keep to covered in case you need to make any repairs (you can neaten the top once the case has been baked blind). Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the paper and beans before returning to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Once the pastry case has been cooked use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to trim the top edges of the tart case. Reduce the temperature to 180℃.

  6. Mix the whole eggs, egg yolks and 45g caster sugar in a large jug. Remove the vanilla pod from the cream (there is no need to scrape out the seeds as you don’t want to overpower the flavour of the currants. Gently rinse off any cream from the pod then wrap in film or foil and store for further use). Strain the cream over egg mixture to remove any skin that formed while the cream was cooling.

  7. Spoon the cooled currant compot into the cooked tart case. Gently pour the ‘custard’ over the currants. Inevitably you’ll get swirls of pink or purple in the creamy topping giving the tart a ripple effect.

  8. Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes or until the custard is just set (a bit of a wobble is fine). While the tart is baking place the remaining 75g sugar in a heavy based pan with 1½ tablespoons of water. Dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat then increase the temperature to caramelise the sugar. Pour the caramel onto a baking sheet lined with silicone paper.

  9. The tart is best served at room temperature or chilled. When you are ready to serve the tart, break the caramel into pieces then blitz to a fine powder in a food processor. Sprinkle this caramel dust over the top of the tart then either place it under a very hot grill briefly or use a culinary blow torch to melt the caramel. Leave for a minute or two to harden before cutting the tart into slices.

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