Want to know what we had after the squid? Last week, I enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Moro which culminated in a slice of the most irresistibly seductive apricot and chocolate tart. I thought about it all evening. I thought about it as I walked the dog the next morning, running through its finer qualities rather as you might after a date with a meltingly wicked lover. It was calling my name and I wasn’t playing hard to get. Back at the house, I’d hardly unhooked the hound from his lead before I pulled my copy of Moro The Cookbook down from the shelves.
My sister-in-law’s visit was the perfect opportunity to reacquaint ourselves. (That little tart and I, I mean, not me and my sister-in-law. We’re quite well acquainted.) Clare is a mountain-climbing-scuba-diving-fell-walking-cycling-to-work-triathlon-training-bastion-of-self-restraint hospital doctor. But I know her weakness and it’s chocolate. Chocolate. Say it, and her eyes light up like her brother’s do on the first Saturday of the football season.
Apricot and chocolate tart
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee from the melting, buttery shortbreadyness of your crust to the tart-sweet shimmer of your apricot sea. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height your dark, mousse-y chocolate crown can reach. And I shall but love thee better after dinner. (With many, many apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who is most certainly spinning in her grave as I type this.)
I was excited to try this recipe because, though I’ve read about grating pastry instead of rolling it out, I’ve never tried it. Also, though it needs a little blind baking, you don’t need to line it with parchment and baking beans first. This was so straightforward and the results so good, I’ll definitely use this shell for other sweet tarts.
In Moro The Cookbook, the apricot layer is a simple, concentrated purée but when I ate it at the restaurant last week, it had pieces of apricot in it too. It was a good addition, I thought, so I’ve added a small handful here. You could leave them out if you wish. It would still be heaven.
For the case:
140g plain flour
30g icing sugar
75g chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
180g apricot leather (see NOTE for alternative), cut into smallish squares
About 8-10 dried apricots, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes or so to plump up and then cut into sixths
4-5 tbsps water
2 tbsps lemon juice
135g unsalted butter
110g dark chocolate, about 70%, broken up into small pieces
2 large eggs
60g caster sugar
Sift the flour and sugar together. In a food processor or by hand, blend the butter with the flour and sugar until you have the texture of fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and mix until it more or less comes together. If it looks a little dry, add a tiny splash of milk or water. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the pastry into a loose-bottomed 24cm tart tin and press it evenly around the bottom and sides of the tin. Prick the base with a fork and pop it in the fridge for half an hour or so. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas mark 7. Bake the tart shell for 10-15 minutes until light brown. Remove and cool on a rack while you prepare the rest. Reduce the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.
Place the apricot paste in a saucepan over a low heat with the water and lemon juice and stir until you have a smooth paste. Spread the apricot on the base of the tart shell and leave to cool until it forms a slight skin – it should wrinkle a bit when you push it with your finger.
While the apricot is cooling, place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (the water shouldn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). When the chocolate has melted, whisk the eggs and sugar together in a separate bowl until pale, light and fluffy. Fold the eggs and chocolate together, pour into the tart shell and smooth with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes – the filling should still have a bit of wobble to it and a very thin crust on top when you take it out. I’d be tempted to start checking it after 15 minutes as I took mine out after 20 minutes and it was a little firmer than the one I’d enjoyed in the restaurant. Serve with Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche.
Apricot leather or paste - labelled as ‘amradeen’ or ‘kamaredin’ in Middle Eastern or Turkish shops - is a warm, glowing amber with the translucence of a stained glass window. It’s as delicious as it is beautiful and it’s used in all kinds of recipes, from drinks, puddings and ice creams to lamb stews and dishes of grilled aubergine. During Ramadan, it’s sometimes served before and after the day-long fast.
If you can’t get hold of apricot leather, Sam and Sam West of Moro suggest using 180g of dried apricots instead. Simply chop them very finely then tip them into a saucepan with 4-5 tbsps of water and 2 tbsps of lemon juice and simmer for about 5 minutes until very soft. Purée in blender. You want a mixture that tastes slightly tart to provide the perfect foil for the rich chocolate layer.