A while back, there was an e-mail doing the rounds among my friends. What you were supposed to do was to open Google, type your name and the word "needs" into the search box and hit search. The resulting hilarious results were then to be e-mailed to all your friends.
Using this methodology, Jeanne needs…
… to accept this reality and grieve the loss of her fantasy
… more lunch helpers
… all the demons she can get (!)
… the money, please
… to artfully convey ideas and opportunities to the committee
… to be in touch with the outside world
… a nap
… guidance in how to look like a well-brought up young lady (!!)
Hmm. Interesting. Some of the above may or may not be true. You may aks me 20 questions, I may only say yes or no
Seriously though, what Jeanne (and everybody else!) really does need is a show-stopper dessert that does not cost an arm and a leg and will not chain you to the stove for 5 hours of preparation time. To my mind, there can be few desserts that fit the bill better than a tarte tatin.
I've written before about this wonderful upside-down caramelised tart. Although the original is made with apples, I have yet to make an apple tarte – so far it's been pear & cardamom, yellow pepper, and now nectarine. Whatever you choose to make it with, a tarte tatin makes for a spectacular dessert and it's decadent without being too heavy. In this version, the sweet nectarines were perfectly offset by the tang of ginger, and I finally got the degree of caramelisation right – hurrah!
Try it. Trust me – you need to.
NECTARINE AND GINGER TARTE TATIN (serves 4-6)
225g puff pastry
thumb-sized piece of ginger root, grated
55g granulated sugar (I used soft brown)
55g softened butter
1-2Tbsp lemon juice
You will need an 18cm skillet or cast iron omelette pan (it must be something that can go on the stove as well as in the oven). Preheat the oven to 220C.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut out a circle of pastry that is slightly larger in circumference than your skillet/pan (you can use an upturned dinner plate to do this). Lightly prick the pastry circle with a fork and chill it while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Using your fingers, press the softened butter into the base of the pan until it is evenly coated. Sprinkle the sugar and the grated ginger over the butter and set aside.
Mix the brandy and lemon juice in a large bowl (add extra lemon juice if not using alcohol). Cut each nectarines into 8ths, carefully pulling each piece off the stone to maintain their chape. Toss in the lemon juice to prevent discolouring.
Pack the nectarine slices in a tight circle in the frying pan, radiating out from the middle. Press the fruit lightly down into the butter and place the skillet/pan over medium high heat.
Keep a close eye on the pan and move it around if some areas seem to be browning faster than others. Once the sugar has caramelised, remove from the heat. Quickly cover with the pre-cut pastry circle, tucking the pastry down the sides of the pan (but be careful – the caramel will be excruciatingly hot!).
Place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and turned golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Then take a warmed servig plate, place it upside down over the skillet and carefully invert the skillet while keeping the plate firmly pressed to it. Give it a good shake and the tarte tatin should slip out, caramelly juices and all. Serve with lots of good vanilla ice cream.
Wait for the butter-sugar mix to go a really deep shade of brown before you lose your nerve and whip it off the heat. As always, be very careful when handling caramel as it is really hot and can inflict serious burns. When you do the inversion of the finished tarte onto a plate, be quick and please make REALLY sure you have a firm grip on both plate and pan/skillet before you flip over – splashing hot caramel all over yourself will result in a trip to the local hospital emergency room, rather than a triumphant trip to the dinner table!
Don't forget to get your entries in for this month's Waiter, There's Something in My… challenge. The theme is retro classics, so think prawn cocktail, melba toast and steak Diane! The deadline is Sunday 3 May.