Monday, 3 March 2008

"There are more than enough tarts in this kitchen already…"


We feel slightly guilty and unprofessional when we have people for supper and no pudding so it falls to me to magic something out of the cupboards that is impressive and delicious and preferably decorated with Barbie sprinkles (my sister’s favourite food).
It’s supposed to be an effortless ten minute thing which I can carry into the party to rapturous applause. So I turned to Nigella and decided on an orange curd tart which now, with hindsight, I see was a silly idea.
We have no Seville oranges, an absolute must according to the domestic goddess - never make a tart without them! – so I scrabble together a line-up of sad clementines from the fruit basket, all of which would fail every EU regulation, and begin to juice and zest them.
The pastry instruction in the recipe are militant, insisting on iced surfaces, 20 minutes in the fridge after every stage of production and a cup of iced water present at every moment should the pastry… burst into flames. Mum shouted over my shoulder that this it was all far too precious and I could leave it out, but not yet confident enough to ignore the potential wrath of a wronged cookbook, I persevered with the chilling, only refusing to wait for one final stint in the fridge before cooking, pulling it out and having a glass of wine instead (…Floyd would have).
Realising also, that I need more egg yolks than I thought possible and no muscavado sugar I have to ring up the soon-to-arrive guests and beg them to bring the ingredients, which is definitely the worst thing to hear before a dinner party and all credit to them for showing up at all.
The orange curd (75g demerera sugar, 100g caster sugar, juice and zest of 4 seville oranges, 3 eggs + 2 yolks, 150 g cold butter in cubes) whisked and brought to boil (let it bubble for one minute and NO longer scolds Nigella) I poured the mix into the pastry case and panicked about its runny consistency.
After supper it was fine, miraculously thickened and set enough to cut into slices. No standing ovation this time, possibly having overheard the panic, just the above comment in jaunty tones. Ho ho.

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