I went to Rome for the first time a few years ago, a beautiful city, vibrant, cultured and steeped in history.
Of the many fond memories of my stay there, one is of walking along streets lined with lemon trees. It has got me into wondering why our streets here in the UK aren’t similarly lined with fruit trees. Apart from anything else it could provide a ready and free supply of fresh fruit, with possible long term health benefits for our children and the wider population.
No doubt someone will point out the health and safety risks behind such an idea – for example, the danger of a piece of fruit falling from a tree and hitting an unsuspecting bystander on the head – but as far as I recall that didn’t do Isaac Newton much harm.
It is, of course, possible to find fruit for free by foraging, provided you know where to look. Most of us probably know where to go to pick wild blackberries, but there are also places where you can find wild strawberries, apples, damsons and sloes. Not far from where I live cobnuts grow wild. They are in season now and I’m using some of them in this recipe.
When I started gardening on my allotment in 2008 I began with half a plot, expanding a couple of years later to take over the adjacent half plot, the whole plot collectively now known as the “Circus Garden”.
When I took on the newer half plot I inherited a young Victoria plum tree, which yields a modest number of ripe plums each year. This recipe combines them with cobnuts to produce a flavourful rustic tart.
If you can’t source cobnuts you can use hazelnuts or almonds or a combination of the two instead. I used 12cm tart tins to make these individual tartlets but the recipe would work just as well as a large single tart, although doing it that way would extend the cooking time by around 10 minutes.
plum and cobnut frangipane tart
for the pastry
250 g plain flour
100 g unsalted butter
100 g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
2 free range eggs
for the tart
9 plums, halved and stones removed
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
3 organic free range eggs
125 g cobnuts
1 tbsp brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 190 C (375 F, gas mark 5). Sprinkle the brown sugar across the cut surface of the plum halves.
2. Place the cobnuts on a baking tray and put in the oven for 6-7 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Leave to cool for a few minutes before blitzing them in a blender until you have the consistency of rough flour. Set to one side.
3. Next, make the pastry. In a mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, sugar and butter and mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the eggs and mix again until the mixture produces a smooth dough. Wrap this in cling film and flatten slightly, to make rolling easier later. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. For the frangipane, place the butter and caster sugar in the mixing bowl of a food processor and mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually, mixing to combine. Next add the powdered cobnuts and the plain flour and mix, making sure all the ingredients are fully combined. Set to one side.
5. Grease six individual flan tins. Retrieve the pastry from the fridge and roll it out to a thickness of about 3mm. Line each tin carefully with the pastry and trim it to leave an overhang of about 1 cm. (Any unused pastry can be frozen at this stage for use in the future). Prick the base and sides with a fork and line the pastry in each flan tin with baking parchment and baking stones or beans. Bake blind in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly and then remove the parchment and baking balls. The edges of each tart will have shrunk slightly, but now you can trim them neatly to the height of the flan dishes with a sharp knife.
6. Next, pour the frangipane mixture into the flan cases and smooth flat with a spatula. Place three plum halves, cut side up, evenly across the frangipane.
7. Place the tartlets in the pre-heated oven and cook for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling has set. Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving, accompanied by a freshly whipped cream.