Tuesday, March 20, 2012
the comfort of colour
The passing of the equinox means we cannot claim Summer anymore. Summer is on its last legs - has leaned into Autumn and from now the days get shorter. The tomato vines are straggling, the strawberries put out a last few berries and the apple tree is loaded. The quinces are heavy and going gold, the pear trees are feeding possums and cockatoos. In a way Autumn is more social than Summer. Everyone is back at school or work. Holidays already seem sketchy and only half remembered. Suddenly sleeves are rolled up. There is fruit to pick, jams and jellies to process, pie to roll pastry for... and after the haze of Summer heat the mornings are crisper, the sky clearer, the colours cleaner. The turning leaves, the cold starts and Wedgewood afternoon skies - this is the comfort of colour that Autumn offers.
With a bucket of homegrown Golden Delicious to hand and dinner guests tonight I pull down Jane Grigson's Good Things and thumb through. She has the authority of Elizabeth David with a less testy temperament. I feel friendlier towards her. She is smart, motherly and wistful in turns. My eye lights on Evreux apple tarts and I feel her at my elbow when she warns, "Do not be tempted to cook the tarts before the meal, or the juices will soak away into the pastry." How well she seems to know me. I would have cooked them early if only to admire them cooling on racks by the window.
Here is her recipe altered slightly to be baked as a galette.
Evreux apple tarts
At the Vieille Gabelle restaurant in Evreux, 55 miles to the west of Paris, they serve these tarts made with Golden Delicious apples. Do not be tempted to cook the tarts before the meal, or the juices will soak away into the pastry. Put them into a hot oven as you serve the first course, and baste once or twice with the apricot mixture.
5oz butter and lard mixed ( I used unsalted Danish butter only)
2 level tablespoons icing sugar
1 oz flour
2 egg yolks
2 oz sugar
1/2 oz milk
6 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons water
11/2 lbs Golden Delicious apples
Make the pastry and use it to line four straight sided patty pans, of about 4 1/2 inches diameter (from Woolworths). (I rolled 2 discs of pastry and lifted them into pie dishes leaving a generous overhang to be folded into on top of the fruit). Make the creme patissiere next: mix in a bowl the flour, egg yolks egg and sugar and stir in the milk which should have first be brought to just under boiling point. Cook over low heat until the custard is thick. Cool, then pour a 1/4 inch layer of it into the pastry cases.
Peel, core and cut the apples into1/8 inch slices. Halve the slices and arrange curved side up inthe creme patissiere, so that they resemble records gradely neatly in a rack.
Melt the apricot jam and water together, and sieve. Pour a little over the tarts. Cook in a hot oven, Mark 6-7, 400-427F, basting from time to time with the rest of the apricot mixture. The top edges of the apple should catch the heat and turn brown. Golden Delicious apples will not lose their shape, or disintegrate into white fluff as cookers do. When you cut into the tarts, a delicious aromatic juice bursts out. Serve plenty of cream with them.
from Jane Grigson Good Things illustrated by M J Mott, London, 1971, 2007