Sweet Lemon and Basil Tart

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Summer is over in Cape Town and that is, in my opinion, very good news. Most things (and especially people) are best not viewed in bright conditions. There is just far too much light around in summer to maintain the illusion that you are attractive and the fantasy that the rest of the world it too. It is with great relief that I welcome the dimming effects of autumn and the general improvement it brings to the experience of looking around (and in the mirror).

This tart, however, speaks well of summer. Brightness, while best avoided as a quality of light, is just what I like in flavours (and what flavour could be brighter than lemon). Some of you might be alarmed by the addition of the basil to a lemon tart. It is, I suppose, an initially disturbing thought. But be assured, skittish baker, that there is nothing pesto-like about this.  The basil is a sublte addition and adds a fragant pepperiness that rounds off the lemon to create a layered and exciting experience.  Just think of the admiration you will cultivate in your tasters for being so very sophisticated.

The recipe is a product of a very general and rather reckless rule that I use when baking with lemons :

Add about 30g of fresh basil to any and all lemon related recipes.

The rule has not yet led to calamity but you might want to adopt a more cautious approach (adding and tasting bit by bit). One subtle way to introduce the basil is to pop it in the blender with some of the sugar and a bit of the liquid from your recipe. “Basil-sugar” is, you will find, quite delicious eaten off the tip of a finger.

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I used the “Tarte au Citroen” recipe from my most precious “Leith’s Baking Bible” with a few adjustments (the same principles can be applied to your favourite lemon tart recipe):

I added about 10g minced basil to the pastry and used a stick blender to blend 20g of fresh basil with the sugar and some of the lemon juice for the filling. Now I realise that the Tarte au Citroen traditionalists (of which there are many) will disapprove, but I also used less lemon juice than the recipe required- keeping the tart a little sweeter and a little easier on the palette. Forgive me reader if you find this adjustment contrary to your deeply held convictions.

If you have not yet found your way to a favourite lemon tart recipe I am pretty sure you cannot go wrong with Mary Berry’s. I have not tried it myself but Mary has never let me down in the past and she sure does know her way around the kitchen. You can find her recipe here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/tarte_au_citron_94480

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