Thursday, 12 January 2012

Seville Orange Tart to celebrate the citrus

Seville orange curd tart with a bit of singe

The season for Seville oranges is fleeting so we need to make the most of them.  Harvesting begins in December and the fruits are over by February so it's easy to miss them.  If we're organised we gather some up for marmalade making, but it's a shame to restrict them to our favourite toast topper. 

Despite their association with the Mediterranean, all members of the orange family originated in China and were brought to Europe by Arab traders.  Reaching for my invaluable Jane Grigson's Fruit Book I learn that the present day citrus groves stretching from India across to Spain mark out the trajectory of conquering muslim armies in the the sixth and seventh centuries.  The first oranges grown were the bitter Citrus aurantium.  Too bitter to eat from the tree, they were cultivated for the scent of their blossom, for perfumes and for distilling into orange blossom water to flavour food.

Sweet oranges, Citrus sinensis, arrived much later, coming from China to Europe via Portugal in the 17th century.  There is now a wide variety of citrus fruits, but the bitter orange continues to be grown in Spain as the 'Seville orange', mostly to satisfy the British taste for Marmalade.  There is more to the bitter orange than marmalade though.  The juice is an excellent variant for lemon flavoured dishes and the following recipe is essentially an orange curd tart.

Seville Orange Curd Tart

It is based on the Tarta de naranjas sevillanas from 'Moro The Cookbook' written by Sam & Sam Clark (which reminds me that I haven't yet introduced you to this book - a serious omission I will remedy soon).  I first ate the tart in their restaurant Moro several years ago and was very pleased to find the recipe in their first book.  The filling is entirely theirs and, I think, is perfect.  The pastry here is similar to theirs but is the one I often use for sweet tarts, being light and easy to work with. The pastry recipe will make twice as much as you need so use half and freeze the rest for next time.  To reduce the chance of curdling the eggs, I thicken my curd in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water rather than over direct heat.

The tart is aromatic, rich and creamy yet well balanced and light.  You could, if you have any, top each slice off with a little candied peel.  Don't throw away peel as you can candy it for use in cakes or ice creams.

Seville Orange Curd Tart

The texture of the curd can vary a little.  If you use slightly too much juice, as I sometimes do, stick to timings given but bake the tart in the oven for an extra 3-4 minutes.  You will get a little browning of the curd but the tart is none the worse for that.

Seville Orange Tart
(Serves 8)

PASTRY (makes 2 x 22cm tart cases):
250g (10oz) plain flour
25g (1oz) ground almonds
Pinch of salt
150g(5oz) butter
60g (2oz) icing sugar
Grated rind of half a lemon
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons milk

170ml (6fl oz) Seville orange juice (about 5 fruits)
170g(6oz)  unsalted butter, in small dice
4 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs (large)
140g( 4oz) caster sugar
Finely grated zest of ¼ orange (Seville is fine)

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the ground almonds and salt. Add the butter and rub in with fingertips. Sift in icing sugar and add grated lemon rind and mix. Lightly beat the egg yolk and milk together and stir into the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough just comes together then turn out and knead gently to smooth the surface.  Wrap half of the pastry and rest in fridge for just 30 minutes (wrap and freeze the other half for another time). 

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan oven) Lightly butter a 23cm shallow, loose-bottomed tart tin.   Roll out the pastry and line the tin, smoothing off the top and pricking the base several times with a fork.  Rest in the fridge for a further 15-30 minutes.  Line with greasproof paper and dried beans and bake the tart blind for 10 minutes.  Remove the lining and beans and return the tart to the oven for a further 5 minutes to make sure the base is well cooked and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and put to one side.

Increase the oven temperature to 220C (200C fan).  Mix all the filling ingredients in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water as too much heat will curdle the mix).  Stir constantly for about 20 minutes until the mixture thickens - this will happen right at the end, so don't give up hope.  It's ready when it has thickened but is still pourable - you are not looking for a stiff curd.  Should you detect little white albumen globules forming towards the end, pass your curd through a sieve into the tart, otherwise just pour the curd into the base and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 10 minutes until set.  Cool before serving.  Moro serves this tart with yoghurt or crème fraîche but, for me, it's delicious on its own.