Firstly a confession about Frangipane. All things almond are viewed with great suspicion in our household, not by me I hasten to add. The mere mention of marzipan, almond croissants and amaretti-style biscuits and you are liable to hear a long list of denunciations, expletives and cries of “you’re trying to kill me!” So I was highly suspicious of Frangipane and when asked what I was making I took a tactical turn and was pretty vague, I waved my floury hands around and used the words “French, fruit, tart and creamyish filling”. Come the evening round at our friends and tucking into the tart after a superb meal all I heard was Ooohs and Aahhs and another slice please. So Sssshhhhh I still haven’t fessed up to using ground almonds………
And now onto the fruity part of today’s post. This time of year it’s hard to convince yourself that those brown twiggy things sitting up to their necks in claggy clay, looking all but dead and lifeless will in a few months’ time be covered with bright green leaves and adorned with ripening berries. That’s what I have to remind myself as I squelch my way up to my allotment. It’s still cold, often rainy and definitely windy but the days are getting lighter and longer my friends, oh yes!
The more I’ve gardened on my allotment and the more I’ve lost to drought, deluge, pest and pestilence the more I have come to appreciate growing fruit. It is relatively simple, easy and yes fruitful….. (sorry?!*). And after an initial outlay you get a great return for your money and little effort; growing fruit really is the busy (and in this case lazy) woman’s allotment banker. The crop that will crop. And keep on cropping for years to come. And for those who are allotmentless I used to grow currant bushes in large pots in the garden – so you don’t need acres of land to savour home-grown fruit.
10 Step Guide to Growing Currants
- Buy a twig that labelled as Currant from your nearest Lidl or Aldi for a couple of quid
- Take it home and out of the wrapper
- Place it in a large pot or dig a hole in the ground
- Add a bit of manure (if you have it)
- Cover with soil or compost
- Water well
- If growing in a pot, when the leaves appear make sure it’s watered well
- When the fruit starts to appear and swell cover the bush with netting – make sure it’s secured down and no birds can get to the fruit – use pegs, cable ties, clips whatever you have to hand
- Wait for the sun to do its magic
- Pick the berries and scoff them all at once. Alternatively wash and drain them and freeze in Tupperware boxes.
And dealing with gluts couldn’t be simpler – eat, share, jam or freeze it. So come mid winter and you’re searching the depths of your freezer a tub of shiny red currants winks at you and before you can say “Sacrebleu Groseille!” you have an idea and you’re rolling up your sleeves, dusting the rolling-pin off and denying all knowledge of almonds.
If I had to choose just one of the currants to grow it would be the red ones – I like their sharp sweet tangyness. Perfect partners for a sweet tart and today’s recipe. The original idea for the recipe came from a book a friend was throwing out “A little taste of France”. The sweet pastry is a standard recipe, as is the frangipane. All I did was to half the quantities to fit my new shiny oblong tart tin.
Classic French Red Currant Tartlets or 1 big pie!
- 170g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 75g butter
- 45g icing sugar
- 1 egg, beaten
To make the sweet pastry
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well
- Put the butter into the well and with your fingertips work it into the flour until it is very soft
- Add the sugar to the butter / flour and mix well
- Next add the egg and start bringing the butter-flour-sugar mix into a ball of dough, with your hands. Knead it a few times until it is smooth
- Cover the ball of dough with clingfilm or a plastic bag and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
- 125g butter, softened
- 125g icing sugar
- 115g ground almonds
- 20g plain flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Beat the butter until very soft, add the icing sugar, ground almonds and flour and mix well.
- Add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well until fully incorporated
- Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with cling film and keep in a fridge up to 24hrs
Assembling and cooking the French Fruit Tartlets
- 250g red currants
- 2 tablespoons apricot jam
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4
- Grease a tart tin 36 x 12 x 3cm H. (14″ x 4¾” x 1″
- Take the dough out of its wrapping, dust a worktop or board lightly with flour and gently roll the pastry out to a thickness of 2mm (1/8”).
- Line the tart tin with the pastry, trimming the edges (or as I did leaving lots of pastry hanging over the edge to be trimmed after cooking)
- Put the frangipane in a piping bag and pipe into the tin (I think you can just spoon it in and level it off)
- Place the tin on a baking tray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes (still in the tin)
- Arrange your currants, berries or fruit (your choice) on top of the tart.
- Gently melt 2 tablespoons of apricot jam with 1 tablespoon of water in a pan, sieve out any lumps and brush over the berries to make them shine.
I’d love to hear them!