Side Dishes & Canapes
Puddings & Desserts
A great way to use an unusual orchard fruit
Last week, a neighbour gave me some medlars. Jam is the classic thing to make with these strange-looking orchard fruits (the French name for them pretty much sums up their appearance…). But not needing any more jam (I am already awash with damson jam this year), I decided instead to try making a tart with them. The result was unexpectedly and intriguingly delicious. Cooked in a sweet pastry case with ground almonds and apple juice, the medlars gave the tart a fabulous lemony-toffee flavour.
I just wish I had some more of them to experiment with now. (Apparently the sticky flesh is good simply served, uncooked, with creme fraîche - but I may have to wait until next year to find out how true that is).
Their stickiness is the one downside of medlars. They are hard and very astringent when they first come off the tree in November, so you have to wait until they are ‘bletted’ (which actually just means that the rotting process has started, but I prefer not to dwell on that thought!) before you can use them. Consequently, by the time you come to peel and remove the pips from them they are very soft and it’s a very messy business - but absolutely worth doing, I promise, if you can get your hands on some.
Makes 8 slices
To make the pastry, whizz the flour, butter and icing sugar in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Beat the egg with the vanilla essence and pour in. Pulse for a few seconds then continue to pulse as you gradually add the apple juice - stop when the mixture starts to come together. Remove from the food processor bowl with floured hands, as the dough will be quite sticky. Press to a disc shape, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins.
After 30 mins, remove from the fridge and roll out the pastry fairly thinly, using plenty of flour. Use it to line a shallow glass or metal pie dish, letting any excess hang over the edge, and bake uncovered at 180C (fan oven) for about 10 mins until just golden.
Meanwhile, prepare the medlars by peeling them and squeezing out the hard pips in the centre of each one. As you work, add the flesh to a large bowl. Beat the egg and stir in, then add the ground almonds, honey, vanilla, apple juice, mixed spice and lemon rind. Spoon into the cooked pie crust and bake for 30 mins. Trim the excess pastry from around the edges and leave to cool slightly before serving, scattered with toasted flaked almonds.
This is great served with a cup of tea, but is also delicious as a dessert with a spoonful of boozy crème fraîche (mixed with brandy, whisky or a fruit liqueur).