I arrived in New York after the big snow storm and was greeted by a light flurry. Thick snowflakes drifted out of the night sky, everything felt magical and my excitement for my trip grew. I was glad I had opted to bring my wellies as I lifted my case over the large bank of blackened snow that lined the street and navigated around dark icy puddles.
A short ride up in the old elevator, with it’s well worn brass buttons and I was greeted at the door of the beautifully remodeled apartment by my friend G who was busy baking in her brand new state of the art kitchen.
I have a serious case of kitchen envy – actually a serious case of remodeled New York apartment envy – it’s gorgeous. Lots of gleaming stainless steel, a steam oven, a giant regular oven (to roast an entire pig), a warming draw, a marble top in the pastry top, a convection stove top, a refrigerator bigger than my entire kitchen, a giant island with a reclaimed beam and so it goes on – or rather and then there’s the walk-in pantry all beautifully organized and P-touched out! And I haven’t even touched upon the walkin-closet for her Louboutin and Prada heels, the out of control tiles in her bathroom, the remote controlled Japanese toilet, her mirrored “closoir” complete with chandelier – and on and on and on it goes – it has it all and more and so stylishly done – inspiring.
Okay, back to what G was baking – Nigel Slater’s lime tart . This month she’s focusing on his book The Kitchen Diaries “forcing myself to cook from his recipes to discover new favorites”.
The pastry for the crust is so light and crumbly and full of butter there’s no rolling and you have to let it rest for at least an hour – in this case G has chosen to make it the day before and let it rest in that giant refrigerator overnight.
The next day G has already made the tart by the time I return from my morning out in the bright warm sunshine that is quickly melting the snow. Trees drip on passers by, large chunks of snow slid down awnings, shattering on the sidewalk at my feet. The round yellow tart sits cooling on the countertop, the sweet smell of fresh baking permiates the apartment. It is picture perfect and ready for its close-up but I will have to wait to eat it until later that night – it’s the dessert for our dinner party. My dearest friends – from when I lived in New York – gather around the table to enjoy food that is exceptional, each course a feast for the eyes and palate carefully paired with wines. We share stories – some new, some old, some sad, happily mostly funny. There’s much laughter and as the evening draws to a close I feel very lucky to call these warm, witty, intelligent and cultured New Yorkers my friends.
The tart didn’t taste half bad either – served with a good dollop of cream to cut through the tartness and washed down with a sweet caramel colored dessert wine. Slater describes it as “a dessert to make everyone smack their lips” and he’s not wrong – these lips are smacking together, asking for more.
I dream of the limes waiting for me back home in California – ripening on the tree outside my kitchen window – and the lime tarts I will happily bake whilst dreaming of G baking in her fabulous kitchen back in New York.
Adapted from Nigel Slater and made by G for good friends
[I have left the ingredients in grams – set your kitchen scales to measure in grams rather than ounces]
170g plain flour
50g confectioners sugar
90g butter cut into chunks
an egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water
for the filling:
6 large eggs
250g extra fine baker’s sugar
the juice of 5-7 limes (3/4 cup)
3/4 cup of heavy cream
Put the flour, icing sugar and butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg yolk and the water. Remove the blade and bring the dough together into a thick log with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour. [Slater warns that if you skip this bit the pastry will shrink.]
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Cut thin slices from cold pastry log and press them into a loose-bottomed 9 inch tart tin with high sides (1.5 inches), pressing the pastry gently up the sides and over the base. (It is too fragile to roll.) Make certain that there are no holes, otherwise the filling will leak through. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper into tart case and fill it with baking beans. Bake the tart case for 10 minutes, then remove the greaseproof paper and bake for a further 5 until the pastry is dry to the touch.
Turn the oven down to 300 F. Finely grate the zest from two of the limes. Squeeze enough limes to get 180ml of juice (this depends on their ripeness). Mix the eggs and sugar, beating lightly for a few seconds – you don’t want it to be frothy – then stir in the lime juice and cream. Pour through a sieve, then stir in the lime zest. Pour into the baked tart tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove while the filling is wobbly. Leave to cool.