There are only a few desserts I have come across which have caused me to wish, instantly, for the recipe. Frédy Girardet’s passionfruit soufflé was one, and the great chef was generous enough to offer it in his terrific book, Cuisine Spontanée; Sirio Maccioni’s crème brûlee at New York’s Le Cirque was another, this time generously offered by the chef at the time, Daniel Boulud.
Gay Bilson’s Sussex Pond pudding—an old-fashioned pudding soaked with the flavour of lemon—from Sydney’s Berowra Waters, via Jane Grigson’s English Food remains indelibly etched in the palate. The memory of Hank Williams stepping off a seaplane at Berowra Waters and making his way up the gangplank to the restaurant is similarly stuck in my mind’s eye. Stephanie Alexander’s raspberry crumble at Stephanie’s, in its Hawthorn-mansion era, remains fixed; it was what we all loved about home cooking, but this time served in one of Melbourne’s finest eating establishments of its time—or any time, for that matter.
Then came Jamie Ford’s lemon tart. Ford cooked terrific tarts in a tiny lunch bar in Melbourne for several years. If he was cooking in New York, he would have been a neighbourhood celebrity, but such is rarely the case in this country. People had told me about his lemon tart, but I had never bothered to try it—I had been disappointed too often by too many versions of lemon tart in too many places across the globe: not firm enough, not enough lemon flavours, egg flavours remaining on the palate, soggy pastry. But at last I tasted a slice of the Ford model, then another slice, then another, until there was no more.
During a crazy part of my life—pre-internet—I started a home shopping business, selling a mix of ingredients, fruit boxes, marinated meats, jams and chutneys…and Jamie’s Lemon Tart. For those who ordered it, and received it in one piece, it was a triumph; for those who had ordered it for a special dinner party, and found it dumped on the front step, it was anything but. The moral of the story is: don’t home deliver delicacies, make ’em yourself.
You won’t be disappointed; this can stand with any of those desserts described above. This is a tart impregnated with the essence of lemon, as light as the lightest soufflé, but has a marvelous texture. It is truly brilliant. I wish it were mine.
- Place the almonds for the filling in the Thermomix mixing bowl and blitz 10 seconds/speed 10. Remove and place in a separate bowl until later.
- To make the pastry, put the flour, sugar and butter in the Thermomix bowl and blend 10 seconds/speed 5. Scrape down. Add the egg yolks and blend again 10 seconds/speed 5 (photo 1).
- Remove and wrap in clingfilm; chill for 30 minutes.
- Once chilled, unwrap and place the pastry on a floured surface (photo 2). Roll out to fit a 23-centimetre loose-bottomed flan dish (photo 3). Take care, this is a very delicate pastry, and refrigerate for 30 minutes (photo 4).
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Once chilled, remove the shell from the fridge, prick with a fork and line with baking paper inside (photo 5). Fill with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Then remove the beans and greaseproof paper and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make the filling, place the butter in the Thermomix bowl. Melt 4 minutes/60 degrees/speed 2. Pour in a separate bowl and leave until later.
- Insert the butterfly. Add the eggs and sugar to the Thermomix mixing bowl. Whisk 4 minutes/speed 3.5. While whisking add the lemon juice, lemon oil and zest through the lid in a thin stream (photo 6).
- Add the almond meal (from step 1) and whisk again 1 minute/speed 2.5.
- Scrape down and whisk again 2 minutes/speed 2.5, while slowly pouring in the butter through the lid in a very thin stream.
- Remove the tart shell from the oven and pour the filling on top until it is nearly full. Bake for another 15-25 minutes until set. Test by slightly moving it, if it does not wobble, it is baked. Leave to cool and then chill for at least 4 hours until set (photo 7).
- Before serving, dust with icing sugar and, using a blowtorch, caramelise the sugar. (Caramelising the top is not a requirement, but, as with a crème brûlee, adds a wonderful textural change.)
AND … lemon oil is a secret weapon in this recipe: used mostly by professional cooks, it is highly concentrated and delivers a brighter, more intense flavour than juice alone can achieve. Lemon oil for culinary use is available from specialist foodstores such as The Essential Ingredient. Concentrations vary between brands; if you’re not sure how strong your oil is, be guided by the label on the bottle and proceed with caution.