I had a yen to make a dessert from forced rhubarb last weekend. I saw some in one of the local greengrocers, and remembered that Nigella has some lovely things to see about its glorious artificial pinkness. In fact, if I remember rightly, she calls her Christmassy rhubarb crumble the best dessert ever. I even had a whole plan formulated to make a bright pink rhubarb compote with Greek yogurt and lemony shortbreads for when the family visited. However, when I visited my usual greengrocer there was not a whisker of rhubarb to be found, and I was too laden down to fancy a trip over to the other one. I had a rapid rethink and bought some Bramley apples instead.
Luckily, my love of reading Nigella's recipes (the baking ones, anyway - I get a bit fed up with all that meat) leaves me with a wealth of alternatives sitting about in my brain, and I knew I'd copied one out for a translucent apple tart which was similarly lovingly described. Say what you like about Nigella's latest tv series (and I do), the woman can write about food in a way that makes you long to rush to the kitchen, or just stuff your face. Happily, I had also stumbled on a fun blog challenge - I like to cook's weekend cookbook challenge - and just guess who this month's author was? Well, no prizes for getting that one right.
I do like making pastry. For once my permanently cold hands are a bonus, and I like the way that it makes me feel directly in touch with generations of women who mixed and cut and rolled out their own. I'm a bit of a purist - no processors here, just a wooden spoon and some elbow grease. It doesn't seem like a chore, but at the same time it gives you a whole extra relationship with your food, as you've taken the trouble to craft it from the bottom up. I used Nigella's own recipe for sweet pastry, but any would do. The filling is pretty low effort - a bit of melting, a bit of stirring, and a brief frenzy of peel-core-grate (the word 'quickly' in a recipe always alarms me. Perhaps it's because the first time I encountered it it was in a profiterole recipe which was a complete disaster. Who knows if my little black cinders got that way because I wasn't quick enough, but it could be, it just could be). Alacrity seemed to work out ok this time, and the pie went into the oven. The bottom of my flan tin has never emerged from the house move, so I planned to make two small ones. In fact the filling only filled one, though perhaps it was deeper than Nigella had intended. It was so gorgeously appley though that I'd recommend just using an 8'' or so tin if you only use one apple. It fed all four of us with a piece cold for The Scientist the next night as well. Grating the apple gives the filling a nice thick texture and fills your mouth in a new and exciting way compared with chopped apple. Can't say exactly how, but it was good. Not rhubarb, but good, and I'm sending it over to the weekend cookbook challenge in praise of Nigella.
Nigella's Translucent Apple Tart (from How to Eat)
Sweet pastry: enough to line a shallow 23 flan tin (though see above - I made it to line two though only filled one). There's no need to bake it blind.
60g lightly salted butter (I used margarine, as usual)
60 caster sugar plus a few drops of vanilla extract (or use vanilla sugar)
1 cooking apple
Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C/Gas 7
Melt butter and sugar together over a very low heat. Remove from heat and beat in egg.
QUICKLY!!!!! peel, core and grate apple coarsely and stir thoroughly into the butter mix
Pour over the pastry and bake for about 15 minutes until golden. Lower heat to 180 degrees/Gas 4 for a further 15-20 minutes.
Serve warm or cold - it's delicious both ways.