Eating al fresco. Is it just me or does food taste just so much better eaten outdoors?
Wholesome, jolly, Enid Blyton 'Famous Five' style picnics spring to mind. Even though this is the only time 'lashings of boiled eggs' have ever sounded truly appealing . They know what they doing though. A case in point: the hearty two dozen macaroons devoured by the gang in 'Five on Finniston Farm', an amount Dick correctly (if slightly greedily) proclaims to be 'just about right'*.
Informal, relaxed, impromptu BBQs. That irresistible aroma of sizzling (burnt) sausages, grilling (burnt) kebabs and browning (burnt) burgers. Especially when that aroma is coming from next door's garden. You end up regretting borrowing their leaf blower for most of last winter as you settle down to your (indoor) microwavable ready meal convincing yourself that this time last year you'd have definitely got an invite.
Sand filled, foil wrapped, sarnies scoffed on the beach before the important business of sand
castle fortress building resumes. The consolation ice cream (a Twister, always) after the heartless waves wash away a whole afternoon's work. I don't think I ever learnt the correct distance between building the castles fortresses near enough to the sea to ensure my extensive moat network was sufficiently watered and far enough away to prevent the entire complex being drowned by the end of the day.
Of course there are significant challenges to eating outside in Britain. Grass stains, wasps, logistics, comfort, toilets and not forgetting the rather temperamental British summer weather. But, never let such impediments put you off: you're outside, in the fresh air, with (I hope) a good bunch of people, in the summer time with a selection of delicious food that is supposed to taste better outside, therefore everyone is going to HAVE FUN.
Today's French Baking Month recipe is a Lemon Tart. And yes, we ate it outside. And yes, it tasted better. Honest.
(by Raymond Blanc. The French King of Chefs)
For the pastry:
120g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
75g icing sugar
3 egg yolks
250g plain flour
2 tbsps water
For the lemon filling:
5 medium eggs
150g caster sugar
85ml lemon juice
2 tbsps lemon zest, grated
150ml double cream
1. Dice the butter and in a bowl mix together the butter and icing sugar until you achieve a cream
2. Beat in two of the egg yolks, add the flour and rub the mixture together until you get a lovely crumbly texture
3. Gradually add the water until the pastry comes together to form a ball
4. Then knead the pastry to blend it on a lightly floured work surface- but don't over knead. Raymondo suggests a maximum of 30 seconds kneading
5. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes
6. To make the filling: using a whisk, mix together the eggs, sugar, juice and zest of the lemon
7. Whisk in the cream and place in the fridge
8. Remove the pastry from the fridge and evenly roll it out on a floured work surface to approximately 3mm thick
9. Using your rolling pin to help the transfer, roll the pastry into a 24cm loose bottomed tart tin and gently tuck it in to the tin, being careful not to poke any holes or stretch the pastry
10. Use the rolling pin to cut off an excess pastry by rolling the pin across the top of the tin
11. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork and refrigerate for thirty minutes
12. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3
13. Line the pastry case with aluminium foil and fill with dried beans, and bake for ten minutes
14. Remove the foil and beans, then return the tart to the oven and bake for a further twenty minutes
15. Brush the pastry with the remaining egg yolk and return to the oven for one minute to create a seal and to prevent soggy pastry
16. Turn down the oven to 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1
17. Remove the lemon filling from the fridge and warm it gently in a small saucepan. Avoid scrambling the filling!
18. Pour the warmed filling into the pastry case and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven when barely set
19. Leave to cool for one hour before tucking in
- Although time consuming with quite a few stages, this is a well impressive dessert, that will sure to be a big hit. Especially after charred sausages and burgers
- It will look extra lovely if served with a few strawberries or raspberries, a dollop of creme fraiche, all washed down with a glass of champagne
- Eat outdoors. Tastes better.
* The one where the five solve a mystery amongst the ancient ruins of a medieval castle, aided by twins Harriet and Henry, who speak in unison and hindered by a family of wealthy, arrogant Americans. I know, I'm off the Library to pick it up too. I'll let you know what happens if you like.