I’m not a huge fan of spirits, so when a recipe calls for a dash of this or a small glass of that, a trip to the off-licence is often needed.
This Spanish tart from the superb Moro Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark calls for oloroso sherry, a smooth, dark and nutty wine. I found a bottle in Oddbins, Lustau Solera Reserva, which is just excellent, a rounded drink with depth and character that isn’t too sweet. The casks used to age oloroso are often sold on to Scottish distilleries who use them to cask whisky. The distinctive flavour of oloroso is there in the background of many a single malt.
The other unusual ingredient is membrillo, a Spanish style jelly made from quince. I couldn’t find membrillo, but Harvey Nicholls had an excellent locally produced quince paste that proved a worthy substitute. They also tried to sell me a £35 bottle of fino too, but that’s a different story.
The most challenging part of this, or any tart, is the base. Get the base right and the rest of a tart is easy.
This method worked perfectly. The pastry held it’s shape without shrinking, and the base was thin and crisp. This will be my standard recipe from now on. It’s the only one that’s ever worked perfectly for me. It’s miraculous.
Sift 140g of plain flour and 30g of icing sugar into a large bowl and mix in 75g of chilled butter, cut up into small cubes. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. A food processor makes short work of this.
Add a single egg yolk and continue to mix until the pastry starts comes together. Finally press the pastry into a ball with your hands. You may find that you need the tiniest splash of milk, barely a teaspoon, to make the pastry behave properly.
Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and rest it in the fridge for at least an hour before using a coarse grater to grate the rock hard ball of pastry straight into a 24cm loose bottomed tart tin. Press the shredded pastry into the base and up the sides until the pastry shell is formed. Prick the base all over with a fork.
Grating pastry may seem crazy, but believe me, it works.
Rest the pastry shell in the freezer for a good half an hour before baking in a hot oven, 220c, for ten to fifteen minutes. The pastry should be a pale golden brown.
To make the tart’s filling, start by melting the membrillo or quince paste, 130g of it, in a pan over a low heat with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir until the lumps disappear, and then spread it out on the base of the cooled pastry case.
Next, blast 230g of blanched almonds in a food processor until a quarter are quite chunky, the rest medium. The almonds should keep some of their bite.
Mix the almonds with the zest of three quarters of a lemon and orange, 40ml of oloroso sherry and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and set aside for the sherry and citrus to soak through the nuts.
Beat 115g of softened butter until it’s light and pale, then mix in 75g of caster sugar. Next, add two eggs, one at a time, beating all the time. The mixture will look a complete mess, on the verge of splitting. Don’t worry. Just tip the almond mixture in and keep mixing.
Spoon the filling into the pastry shell, smooth it down and bake in an oven preheated to 180c for thirty to forty minutes, until the tart is golden brown.
This is a stunning tart, with a crisp, thin base, a sweet layer of quince, crunchy almonds and a sweet background booziness from the oloroso sherry.