Cycling home on Friday night, a few pints and a slightly aggressive curry down, it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a good tart for a while. This was clearly something that needed to be rectified. Sharpish. It’s not healthy for a man to go unsatisfied in this department for too long.
I managed to avoid temptation and pick up something cheap and regrettable during the course of that journey, but resolved to make good over the weekend. Something short, sweet and British. Just how I like them.
The plan was to follow a grouse feast with a nice, big, greengage topped custard tart. So that’s what I did.
I used the shortcrust pastry recipe and method that I’ve used for ages and that I set out at length here. It’s really quite short, so you need to chill well at all stages and also to be confident and quick when rolling and lining and stuff. I still like using it, though it certainly wasn’t my best effort; not least because I didn’t blind bake it long enough so it was a little paler and not quite as crisp as I like.
The filling was great though. I made a fairly standard egg custard, enhanced by the seeds of one vanilla pod. More by luck than judgement the custard went somewhere between half way and two thirds up the tart shell. Which was ideal for my purposes. I baked halved greengages with a sprinkle of sugar for a few minutes, so that they would be soft enough to cut through with a spoon, yet still hold their shape. Once these had cooled and the custard in the tart had baked and set, I placed the no longer green gages atop the tart.
Maybe if I’d been trying to impress Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry I would have made a greengage jam to go under the custard, rather than have the rather clumsy fruit halves on top. But I wasn’t and it did the job. Urge sated.
Greengage and custard tart
Use a 4cm deep, 24cm diameter tart tin loose bottomed tart tin
For the pastry shell, follow the recipe and method in this post. Or use your own preferred shortcrust method.
For the filling500g double cream 1 vanilla pod, split down the middle length ways, seeds scraped out 8 egg yolks 70g caster sugar 2 punnets of greengages (about 30) 10-15g caster sugar
Heat the oven to 150C. Halve and de-stone the greengages. Place, stoned side up in a earthenware or pyrex dish and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10-20 minutes, so that they are just soft to the touch. Remove from the oven. They will continue to soften in the latent heat of the dish. Leave to cool. (Depending on your time constraints, you might want to do these after the custard filling has been baked.)
Plonk the cream in a milk pan, scrape in the vanilla seeds and drop in the pod halves too. Carefully bring the cream to the boil, turn the heat off and let the vanilla infuse for 10 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, and then keep whisking. Hard. So that the yolks lighten in colour and the volume of the mixture increases by about a third. Pour the now lukewarm cream through a sieve into a jug or other container – to remove any scum or unwanted bits of vanilla pod. Then pour this little by little on to the yolks, whisking continually. Decant the egg and cream mix into a clean saucepan and heat gently over a low heat, stirring continually with a wooden spoon. Take off the heat once the custard coats the back of the spoon and you can draw a line down it with your finger. Or use a digital probe and take it to 60C.
Turn down / pre-heat your oven to 130C. Decant the custard into an already blind baked tart shell. The liquid should come about half to two thirds of the way up – so it shouldn’t be a problem moving this down to the oven without spilling it. Cook on the middle shelf for 30-40 minutes. It’s done when there’s just a small wobble in the middle. Remove and leave to cool. Arrange the greengage halves on top.