WanderSups: Serving a slice of the French Alps
Missing her usual spring trip to the ski slopes, Hannah Gregory serves up a slice of the French Alps this month - in the form of “the most perfect fruit tart I ever did eat”
It’s happening. It’s finally happening. Spring is well and truly on its way. At time of writing this, I have just returned from a dog walk in wait for it… a lightweight jacket! When standing in the garden with said dog this morning, I noticed a white flower (couldn’t tell you what it is) popping its flowery head up towards the sky that is most definitely staying brighter for longer. It truly feels as if the whole country is starting to exhale and breathe a sigh of relief as things begin to look a little more optimistic.
And so, with spring, comes Easter and all the gubbins - simnel cakes, legs of lamb and every kind of egg-themed sweet treat one can possibly think of. However, for me, Easter feasts have of late looked a little different. For the last five years I have been lucky enough to spend most of my Easter hols in the Alps. (Working not playing. Well, maybe a little playing.) And so Easter has looked very, well, cheesy. But I’m not here to write about cheese, I’m here to write about the most perfect fruit tart I ever did eat.
Now let me take a moment to disclose something. A deep, dark secret that I have never shared with anyone since embarking on this foodie career. I absolutely detest cooked fruit. Hate it. Can’t stand it. The softness, the either too-sour or too-sweet taste, the reminder of school dinners at best or Gran’s cooking at worst, I’ve just never given it the time of day.
Whilst working in Deux Alpes - the most beautiful, quaint, French ski resort - I had a tradition: every day at 11am I would walk (skid) from my office, across the car park to the patisserie where I would get a cafe au lait and something sweet and then sit outside in the sun, swatting away the overly tame birds and watch lunatics ski down the mountain. (I’ve still never skied despite my five years in resort - something I am very proud of.)
More often than not, my cake of choice would be a chocolate eclair, or perhaps a choux bun filled with coffee flavoured custard. NEVER would I venture to the fruit end of the counter. But out of the corner of my eye, I always noticed this small, perfect tart, adorned with the darkest purple berries, so rich in colour they looked like they had been dipped in ink - shiny, lustrous, glinting in the mountain sun that streamed through the window.
Before anyone could see me eyeing this fruity thing up, I would always avert my gaze back to my trusted chocolat. Ashamed for even thinking about adultery with such a thing. Yet every day the longing and curiosity became stronger. Not being able to speak French (another ridiculous thing to admit after five years out there and something I am less proud of) I couldn’t ask what it was and so, our silent, visual love affair continued for many months.
Until one day, a particularly busy day, someone went and did the coffee run and came back with one of these tarts. Nervously, I took a bite - grimacing in anticipation of the slimy, sour, fruity pulp. How wrong I was. Crumbly pastry, the creamiest, vanilla-iest creme pat, prefect berries that popped in your mouth with huge bursts of flavour. I was a convert. The next day I ordered the tarte aux myrtilles and I looked upon the English peasants ordering chocolate eclairs with pity, blithely ordering something you can get in the cake aisle of Morrisons.
Myrtle tart, or tarte aux myrtilles, is an alpine dessert that sits upon patisserie counters and restaurant menus alike and is traditionally made from wild blueberries which have more of a similarity to bilberries than the blubes we know and love, crumbly pastry and creme pat. I have added another element to mine with ground almonds and a blueberry curd - just call me a maverick. If you can get your mitts on some bilberries 100% use them (and send me some) but blueberries work perfectly as well.
Alpine Blueberry Tart
Makes: one large tart, approx. 8 servings (no judgement if you hoof the lot, I did)
Tipple of choice: glass of Shiraz
Playlist: Let’s Cook
What you need :
For the pastry
210g/plain flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
100g butter, chilled and diced
40g caster sugar
1 free-range egg, beaten
1 tbsp iced water
For the filling
600g of blueberries
90g of caster sugar
60g of butter
100g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
2 tbsp cornflour
600ml full-fat milk
2tsp vanilla paste
Icing sugar to serve
How you do it:
Note: There are a few steps to this tart but it is so worth it. I always make the pastry, curd and creme pat the day before I want to eat it. I then fill it with the blueberry curd and leave to set overnight and finish cooking it the next day. You don’t have to set the curd but it gives you some impressive layers when cutting up.
First up, make your pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and pulse till sandy. Tip into a bowl and fold in the sugar followed by the egg. Add the water and bring it all together to make a smooth, non sticky dough. If you think it needs a touch more water, wet your hands and add it that way.
Wrap the dough in cling film, flatten into a thick disc and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.
To make the blueberry curd, blitz 300g of the blubes in a blender or nutri bullet. Sieve into a saucepan add the sugar and heat gently.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt.
Slowly pour a third of the heated blueberry mixture into the eggs, continuously whisking so to temper the eggs.
Once combined, add the egg mix into the blueberry pan and stir constantly until thickened - this will take about 20 minutes.
Once thickened, add in the butter and stir till combined.
Remove from the heat, cover the surface with cling film so a skin doesn’t form and leave to cool. Once at room temperature, pop in the fridge.
Roll the pastry out to 0.5cm thick and line a loose bottomed tart case with it. Gently press it into the flutes of the tin, prick the base all over with a fork and pop back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180c.
Whilst that is chilling, crack on with the creme pat. Put the milk in a pan along with the vanilla paste and heat gently till just before boiling.
Whisk the sugar and egg yolks till pale.
Sift in the cornflour continuously whisking.
Very gradually whisk the hot milk into the eggs. Do this in small stages and whisk continuously so not to scramble the eggs.
Once all combined, return to a saucepan and put back on the heat, stirring constantly till thickened (about ten minutes).
Remove from the heat and put cling film over the surface to stop a skin forming. Once at room temperature, pop in the fridge.
Remove the tart case from the fridge and line with greaseproof paper and baking beans.
Blind bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, remove the paper and beans and allow to cool.
Stir the ground almonds through the blueberry curd and then spread over the base of the tart.
Pop back in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour - ideally overnight.
Once the curd has set, pipe or spoon on the creme pat making sure the whole base is well covered.
Scatter over the remaining blueberries - you want to cram as many in as possible.
Put in the oven for 30 minutes until some of the berries are popping and losing their shape.
Allow the tart to cool, dust with icing sugar and then dish up.
Hannah reached the quarter finals of BBC MasterChef last year. She hosts WanderSups supper clubs serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com
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