Inside a cookery book (Sophie Grigson’s Food for Friends), given to me by Granny when I was a student, is a collection of dog-eared recipes saved from newspapers and magazines over the years. Frances Bissell’s recipe for individual lemon tarts is among them, originally published in the Saturday Times magazine in November 1997. I made those tarts as one of the pudding options for a New Year’s Eve party we hosted at Gale at the end of the year. (Another memorable element of that party was a treasure hunt featuring a Mexican bar manned by your father in the pool hut.) Since then, I’ve been making this as a single tart, with the quantity of pastry adjusted accordingly. It’s another recipe made much easier by a food processor.
Serves 6, using a 24cm tart tin
185g plain flour
20g ground almonds
100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1tsp caster sugar
20g chopped almonds
1 egg yolk
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks (save the whites for making meringues)
Juice and finely grated zest of 3 lemons
175g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
Rub the flour, ground almonds and butter together, by hand or in a food processor. Stir in the sugar and chopped almonds and then the egg and enough iced water to bind the pastry together. Form into a pat on a floured surface (try to avoid handling the pastry too much), cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour, ideally longer.
Grease the tart tin, then roll out the pastry and line the tin. Leave to rest in the fridge again if you have time. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan). Scrunch up some baking parchment, open it out, lay it over the pastry and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 15 minutes, then remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes, uncovered. (If you want to ensure a really crisp, sealed base, you could brush the pastry with egg white before the second blind bake.) Remove and allow to cool.
To make the filling, stir the eggs, sugar and lemon (zest and juice) in a bowl over simmering water and, when the sugar has dissolved, gradually beat in the butter. Stir for 20 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool and thicken. (If any opaque flecks of cooked egg white have appeared, try to fish them out with a teaspoon.)
Pour into the tart case and bake in a preheated oven (160C fan) for 25 minutes, until the filling has just set and slightly risen to a smooth top. Don’t let it brown.
You can dust it with icing sugar before serving, but do this at the last minute so that the sugar doesn’t dissolve and become invisible. Serve with cream and/or a raspberry coulis if you’re after some eye-catching colour.