Lemon Basil Tart


Although lemon basil, with its distinctive citrus scent, would make sense in this lemon tart, I prefer the more common sweet basil. Because it’s so deeply perfumed, just a few leaves are all that’s needed to accent the sharpness of the lemon with notes of clove and spice. It’s not always easy to balance two such robust flavours, but mellowed by the cream and sugar, they work beautifully here. Serve with perfectly

ripe strawberries.

Serves 8

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
90g unsalted butter, firm but not fridge-cold, cubed
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

For the filling:
200ml double cream
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
4 large eggs
125g caster sugar
Zest and juice of 5 small lemons (you’ll need 125ml juice)

20–23cm round flan dish or cake tin

1 In a large bowl, rub the flour and butter together using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and then stir in the salt and sugar. In a small bowl, beat the yolk with the milk then add this gradually to the flour mixture. Cut the liquid into the dry ingredients using a small knife, bringing the mixture together in small clumps. Once there’s no dry flour left, press the dough together into a flat disc then wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2 While the pastry is chilling, place the cream and whole basil leaves into a small pan and place over a medium heat. As soon as the cream comes to a gentle boil take the pan off the heat and leave the mixture to cool and infuse.

3 Once the pastry has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface to a circle large enough to line the base and sides of your tin and 3–5mm thick. Lower the pastry gently into the tin and, taking care not to stretch it, press it into the corners and against the sides. Trim off any excess and leave to chill for another 30 minutes in the fridge, or 15 minutes in the freezer. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C/gas mark 6.

4 Line the chilled pastry case with a sheet of baking parchment, fill with a layer of baking beans or dried pulses, and bake blind (see page 234) for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment parcel of beans and return the pastry case to the oven for a further 5 minutes, to crisp up. Once the case is baked, remove it from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/fan 130°C/gas mark 2.

5 Lightly whisk the eggs together in a large bowl then beat in the 125g sugar. Pour the basil-infused cream into the bowl through a sieve, discarding the basil leaves. Add the lemon zest and juice and whisk gently to combine. Pour this into the baked pastry case and cook for around 25–30 minutes, until the edges are set but, when the tart is lightly shaken, the centre still wobbles slightly. If you wait until it’s set at the centre, you’ll have cooked the tart too long, and the filling will shrink and crack as it cools. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving. Although it’s best to store this in the fridge, the flavours will be brightest at room temperature, so factor in some time for it to warm slightly if preparing the tart in advance.

 by Nato Welton, 2014

by Nato Welton, 2014

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