Sorry for the long absence. I wrote this when there actually were raspberries about, then forgot about it.
It really is time for something savoury now — I’ve got a homemade, wood-fired bread oven positively screaming for a write-up — but (alas) I found some wild raspberries. Since I’m still perfecting wood-fired breadovening (as my significantly reduced eyebrows will attest), the raspberries will do for now.
Wild raspberries, I’m told, were once as common in the English countryside as blackberries are now. It’s apparently only in the last century that the two fruits have swapped places — blackberries taking to the hedgerows and raspberries taking their spot in the fruit farms.
This swap is just as well. Wild blackberries are much nicer then their cultivars. Wild raspberries really aren’t nearly as good as the ones in our gardens. The biggest difference between cultivated and wild is the size — wild’ns are about half the size and also seem to be almost completely not sweet. Luckily, this suits my palate.
Picking them is total hell. Firstly because they don’t grow in neat rows but in vast, thorny lumps, half a mile in every direction. Secondly, being tiny, it takes an extraordinarily long time to get a useful number of the things. I looked into my carrier bag (more on that later) after an hour of picking — expecting to see it bulging at the sides — and found about a handful of raspberries. This was demoralising so I stopped.
What to do with my handful of blackberries became a bit of an issue. It all became harder when I discovered that my use of a carrier bag had turned a hard collected handful of raspberries into a few spoonfuls of leaking red purée. I had harboured an optimistic notion that I’d be able to spend and afternoon accumulating free raspberries, then make a large and decadently uneconomical pie out of the things.
Thus, the tart was born. As the pictures may hint, it was a 6 inch diameter tart. Sort of single-serve, really. I would have liked to put a top crust on it, but I had images of a sort of raspberry flavoured custard cream, so didn’t. My first attempt (as pictured) was a little short on the pastry and remained quite sour, so I had another few shots with farmed raspberries to nail the recipe.
- 1 cup of macerated (in 1 tbsp liqueur) or crushed raspberries (soft, hard, mouldy or maggotty ones are good — eat ‘em fresh otherwise)
- 6 tbsp sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tbsp brandy (or similar)
- 1 tbsp cornflour
(it seems fashionable to say ‘use your favourite tart case recipe’ [do people really have favourite tart case recipes?], but I don’t imagine many of them are much good for a 6 inch tart)
- 150g flour
- 100g butter
- 50g sugar
- 1 tbsp water (as little as possible)
- 1 egg or egg white (for egg wash)
- Begin with the pastry. Rub together the butter and flour until fine and regular in texture, then stir in the sugar.
- If extremely confident, turn crumbs into the tin and press firmly to edges. If less confident, add a little water to bring to a dough, then roll out and place in tin. Prick the base with a fork. Refrigerate until required.
- Preheat an agreeable oven to 200°C (390°F).
- The precise quantity of raspberries required depends on how much they reduce in volume when crushed to a paste (if no forks are available, then take on a two hour walk inside a carrier bag for the same effect). Gently mix in 5 tbsp of the sugar, adding more if required. Do the same with the cornflour, lemon juice and brandy, trying to prevent too much damage to the lightly pureed fruit. Set aside.
- Blind bake the tart case. First for 10 minutes whilst filled with baking beans (I used a cat food bowl — perfectly clean: cat died last year), then brush with egg or egg white and bake empty for 1o minutes more. Remove and turn the oven down to 160°C (320°F).
- Turn the raspberries into the case (they’ll break down so there’s no need for obsessive-compulsive patterns), sprinkle with the remaining spoonful of sugar and bake for half an hour, until the filling has set and the pastry is golden.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool before lifting from case. Serve warm or cold, with sweet sauce and crème fraîche or ice cream.