Monday 5 April 2010

Wayward tarts. It’s not you, it’s me.


Look, I tried my best. I’m sure it was my fault. Two days of fizz-fuelled festivities blunted my baking arm. I’d promised Lady de B two tarts for Easter Sunday lunch, Blood orange meringue pie and Black bottom pie from Lindsey Remolif Shere’s Chez Panisse Desserts so I got up at 6.30am on Sunday to make good on my promise.

Can I start by saying I love this book? Many a summer evening has ended with scoops of its Beaumes-de-venise ice cream melting alongside slices of apricot tart. In autumn and winter, its apple crisp or espresso cognac mousse are to be found on my table almost as often as salt and pepper. But I just couldn’t get my tarts to behave. The blind-baked tart shells cracked like river beds in a drought, requiring patching, cursing and coaxing into usefulness. I struggled on. They were fine but not the perfection I was seeking.

But no matter. I was playing to the home crowd, those most likely to forgive my failings. Besides, after a feast of Lady de B’s homemade gravadlax with mustard sauce, barbecued shoulders of lamb, cheese and salad, the tarts vanished quickly enough so they can’t have been too horrible.

DSCN1498 Barney and Patrick play in the garden.

DSCN1413 So many glasses, so little time…

DSCN1405 Richard made collages of parties past and laminated
them into placemats.

DSCN1529 Tucking in.

DSCN1479 Lady de B’s home-cured gravadlax with mustard sauce
and cucumber salad

DSCN1507 Barbecued shoulder of lamb with roast potatoes and
cauliflower gratin

DSCN1514 I think Kim and Steve raided a particularly fine French restaurant to come up with all of these fabulous cheeses.

DSCN1532 The smell of the cheese brings Patrick to the table.

DSCN1556 Wayward tart No. 1: Blood orange meringue pie

DSCN1561 Wayward tart No. 2: Black bottom pie

DSCN1612 Naughty Claudia feeds Barney at the table.

Chez Panisse blood orange curd


What was delicious and easy was the blood orange curd I used to fill the meringue pie so at least I can offer you that. I’ll try the tarts again and post them later.

Makes about 1 ½ cups

2 blood oranges (about 275g/10oz)
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp cornstarch/flour
¼ cup/55g caster sugar
1 egg
4 egg yolks
6 tbsp/85g unsalted butter

Wash the oranges and finely grate the zest into a non- corroding bowl. Juice the oranges, strain 7tbsp of the juice into the bowl, and add the lemon juice. Mix the cornstarch/flour and the sugar – this prevents lumps from forming when it’s mixed with the eggs. You may omit the cornstarch/flour unless you are filling a tart that you want to brown. Put the egg and yolks in a small, non-corroding saucepan and whisk the sugar-cornstarch/flour mixture into them. Stir in the juice and zest mixture. Don’t be alarmed if it seems to curdle; it will smooth out later. Cut the butter into several pieces and add to the mixture.

Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon as for crème anglaise. Remove from the heat and stir for a minute or two until the heat of the pan dissipates so the custard won’t curdle on the bottom. Pour into a small container and chill.


  1. Okay, your wayward tarts make mine look like they spend time, smoking in schoolyards and tripping old ladies. Darling, I live through your parties, honestly I do. You could export your friends as a sort of ambassadors of goodwill to the rest of the civilized world (I use that term loosely) to show us how its done. The typical American party features stale nachos being hugged to the chest of the hungriest guest while someone threatens suicide in the loo. Not exactly Noel Coward.

    Onward, and upwards,
    Karen (the human wayward tart)

  2. What a brilliant title for a post!

  3. Okay, Alex, you've already won. No need to ladle it on! :-)

  4. Hey lovely Karen, You really made me laugh. As I clutch my cherished back copies of the late, great Gourmet to my bosom, I know that isn't true. And you're picking on the wrong Alex - this one's a blogger of the female variety and she has a lovely blog that's right up your street here
    Alex, Thank you dear. At least I managed to get something right this weekend...

  5. Oooh I must confess to a 'shake at the knees' weakness for a good curd. Yours sounds divine Debora. Chuck me a scone and some thickened cream together with your curd and I would be pretty darn happy! Looks like you had a great easter. Oh and thanks for confessing to the "imperfections". I for one find it refreshing and it shows you just need to soldier on despite the letdowns. We all have them. It's all about how you handle them. Well handled dear!

  6. Hello darling Mariana, Well, it was a catalogue of dawn disasters. First the crust, which despite the careful rubbing in of three different kinds of fat (unsalted butter, salted butter, vegetable shortening) was most uncooperative, and then the proportions of the fillings (I'd like a bit more curd in my meringue pie and a lot more black bottom in my black bottom pie) and then my meringue wept like a penitent schoolgirl, probably because I didn't beat in the sugar enough - my friend Gil swears you have to beat for at least 10 mins after adding all the sugar to dissolve it properly in the egg whites. He's probably right. I took to it with the blowtorch in the end to try and disguise its lacrimosity. BUT the curd was divine, just the thing with a batch of your lovely scones. I hope you had a marvellous Easter too. Love Dxx

  7. Whoops, sorry Alex! My sincere apologies. The myth of the Ugly American lives on in the person of me, apparently the embodiment of rudeness!
    And Debora, honestly, anyone who can successfully use (and spell!) lacrimosity in a sentence should never, EVER, worry about her weeping meringue (I howled at your a penitent school girl! LOL!). You are my heroine, darling!

    Hugging those stale nachos,
    Karen Marline

  8. PS--Those Gourmet pictures are all staged! I hate to give away secrets, but, there it is. Only the horsey set in Long Island throw parties like that. The rest of us struggle along with strangely silent dinner guests who are frantically wondering how long they have to stay before they can possibly make excuses. Photos of prior parties as placemats would be a frightening aspect to most Americans (who wants to see Grandma arguing with Uncle Fred about the fried chicken?). You probably don't have teenagers in pajamas in the supermarkets, either!
    Karen, Miss Manners

  9. I love the idea of those place mats. A good gift for guests to take away at the end of the day/evening. I hope it's ok to steal the idea!

  10. Do you know those tarts don't look too wayward to me and that blood orange curd looks absolutely delicious and that shoulder of lamb.... The placemats are a genius idea. Oh what a dinner party!

  11. Hello dear Karen, You know, I believe we do have people in pyjamas in supermarkets now. One of the supermarkets banned them, so it must be an issue, though I have never seen it with my own eyes.
    Secretphotographer - Steal away! I don't see it as stealing, more as sharing. Richard and my Sean make them every year or so at Easter and they make a lovely reminder of how lucky we are to be surrounded by such wonderful, odd, disfuctional, witty and utterly fabulous friends.
    Kath - You, my dear, are very kind.

    Love, Dx

  12. Hehe. It almost sounds like you needed counselling Debora. Thank goodness for your blog - a great place to offload and keep us entertained at the same time.

  13. Ha, Mariana, how right you are!


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