Thursday, May 28, 2009

Apricot meringue tart

Makes 1 gorgeous tart

I've often been in the mood for sun warmed stone fruit like the apricot but rarely in the right place nor season to enjoy at it's absolute best. In the spring, when the landscape promises so much but offers no berries or buds, preserves are the traditional way to brighten what we eat. Here, crisp pastry holds a layer of conserve under a puddle of semolina covered with meringue. Clearly making jams and chutneys at the time of year when the key ingredient is at it's best isn't a new concept, but with apricots there are few better examples of capturing the spirit of how the fruit should taste at the peak of their season.

100g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
225ml milk
50g semolina or ground rice
125ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond essence, if you like it
About 150g good apricot conserve

Sift the flour, baking powder and a scant tablespoon of sugar into a bowl, and then rub the butter through evenly. Beat one egg yolk (save the white) with a couple of teaspoons of water, add to the bowl and work to a dough with a dash more water if needed.

Wrap and chill for 30 minutes, roll out thinly, and then line an 18cm deep tart case. Press baking parchment against the sides and bottom, weigh down with baking beans, and bake for 30 minutes at 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Remove the paper and bake until golden.

Tip the milk, 50g sugar, the semolina and cream into a pan, and whisk over heat until boiling. Separate two eggs; beat in the yolks, vanilla and almond essence, and cook, stirring, until thick.

Spoon the semolina over the pastry base and spread with conserve. Beat the egg whites and 100g sugar to a stiff meringue, pile it high and bake at 200c/gas mark 6 for around seven to ten minutes until coloured.