Bread cubes, sometimes dipped in olive oil, are nibbled, cheese is greedily sampled, vegetables are gently prodded, seafood is admired and appraised, meat is pondered and sometimes a little matchmaking is attempted. But that is another story!
Over more refreshments, the menu is finalised, purchases are made, wine is bought and we repair to one of our homes, usually M & B’s, to spend the rest of the afternoon prepping and cooking to produce a tasting menu of 6 – 8 dishes. One of my favourites is a seared scallop on small disc of crispy black pudding with a mustard and creme fraiche sauce. I think that N has made this every time now – it’s a regular on our “menu”. We all have some idea of what we would like to cook before we get to the market and I usually bring something pre-made with me. Once I made pasta dough and brought my pasta roller because I wanted to make a ravioli – medley of mushroom as it turned out and once I made a mustard and rhubarb relish which I wanted to serve with mackerel but there were none to be had in the market that day. Sometimes we invite friends who arrive in the evening together with our family members and it is always a warm, convivial day finishing late into the night.
We never make a pudding as we would all much rather have a cheese course but once (3 years ago according to my notes), I made this Rustic Plum and Blueberry Tart to have just incase anyone felt like a sliver of something sweet and I have been making it ever since.
It takes minutes to blitz the pastry base and slice the plums and then it spends 3/4’s of an hour or so in the oven, with an irresistible smell wafting out of the kitchen for the duration.
For this tart to work, it is desirable to have a contrast of sweet biscuit-like pastry base and the sour plums – Victoria plums (the oval purplish ones) won’t work. Because the pastry base has a higher sugar content, it will colour to a gorgeous golden brown. I am battling with a really horrible oven – though not for much longer – which scorches everything so the fruit does look a little singed but this contrasts beautifully with the tart jammy interior of the fruit and the crumbly, nutty biscuit like base. In the past I have added a few drops of almond extract to the base to boost the flavour and I have also added cinnamon to it. Once I didn’t have enough ground almonds and added flaked ones to bolster up the quantity. All were successful additions. There are lots of plums around at the moment so this is the perfect time to try this easy recipe.
Rustic Plum and Blueberry Tart
adapted slightly from the wonderful blog, Orangette by Molly Wizenberg
- 150g flour
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 85g ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- 45g cool butter, cubed
- 4-6 juicy slightly tart, juicy plums
- 100g of blueberries (a handful really)
You will also need a 22 cm loose bottomed or springform tin, the bottom lined with a parchment circle.
- Preheat oven to 190C/170C fan/375F
- Using a food processor; Place the flour, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Pour in the egg and butter cubes and process until it looks like damp sand. It takes about one minute!
- If you are making it by hand, place the flour, sugar, ground almonds, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well to combine. Add the egg and butter and using a pastry blender, two knives or a fork, cut the mixture together until it starts to clump and there is no flour showing.
- Tip the mixture into the baking tin and gently pat down to even out into one layer – you mustn’t compact it and nor should you pat it up the sides. it should just be one even layer.
- De-stone 4 of the plums by cutting in half and twisting. Depending on the size of the plums, slice each half into 3 or 4 slices and lay in two circles on top of the pastry. Leave a little margin of pastry between the edge of the tin and the fruit. If you need more fruit then use the additional plums. Scatter over the blueberries.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes, checking after 40 minutes.
- The tart is ready when the pastry has puffed up a little around the fruit and has taken on a golden hue with a deeper colour to the edges.
- Cool in the tin, on a rack for 10 minutes and then remove the sides to finish cooling.
- Can be served warm or cold with a spoonful of creme fraiche or a scoop of ice-cream.