I’ve been trying to post this vanilla plum tart recipe up for almost a week now. But each time I make the tart, we’ve had guests arriving so it’s been eaten before I’ve time to take a photograph. Which, of course, speaks volumes for how tasty this particular French-style pastry is. Fourth time lucky? Here’s my fourth edition in full colour rather than in full tummies!
There’s good reason for me to make this pastry so often in one week alone. This particular golden orange plum, among our first stone fruit this year, is known in Malta as ‘naspli’. Elsewhere, you might come across it as Loquat, Japanese plum or medlar, or the Maltese plum. I’ve seen it frequently over the years I’ve lived in Malta – my neighbour has a tree in his garden – but I’ve never used it before. I always thought it was a type of apricot, given its colour.
It was only after getting some from Villa Bologna’s gardens two weeks ago, that I bothered to do some research on naspli and decide what I could make with them.
Several people I’ve spoken to it about here in Malta have said they don’t touch them; one even said it made her get goose flesh just looking at it. Strange reactions indeed. Chatting to the gardener at Villa Bologna while she hacked some down for me, I learned that while the fruit flesh is just as tasty as other similar stone fruit, the kernal and leaves are poisonous.
As the stone comes apart in several small parts, I took great trouble to remove in entirety! It wasn’t a hassle, but I wanted to munch the tart without worry! The flesh has good nutritional value, mind you, so don’t let the info above put you off! But use any stone fruit in season – other plums, apricots, even nectarines if not overripe.
I created a typical open, fruit tart with a vanilla confectioners custard on the base, just the way you see them in French patisseries. If you never made real custard, please do! It’s easy and light years away in flavour from tinned powdered variety. I love this style of sweet which is just as good for breakfast as tea or, as last night at our place, a supper party dessert.
All images © Liz Ayling 2013
- 130g plain flour
- 60g polenta or semolina
- 80g unsalted butter
- 3-4 tbsps cold water
- 3 medium egg yolks
- 50g caster sugar
- 20g cornflour
- 250ml fresh whole milk
- 1 tsp top quality vanilla essence
- ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
- around ½ kilo of stone fruit (plums, apricots etc), halved or quartered and stones removed
- 2 tsps sugar to sprinkle over tart before baking
- zest of a lemon, to dot on top before baking, if desired.
- Preheat oven (fan) to 180°C
- Make pastry by rubbing the fat into the flour and polenta/semolina til it resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the water, mixing the flour with a palate knife til it forms large clumps and then knead a little by hand to form a smooth ball. Flatten slightly into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.
- Make custard for tart base: whisk the egg yolks and sugar til thickened and light in colour, then add the cornflour and vanilla essence and whisk in well. Bring the milk to the boil and pour in slowly in a thin drizzle into the egg mix, whisking briskly all the time to mix in well. Return the entire mixture to the pan and over a lower heat, whisk (or use a spatula) the egg custard until it just begins to thicken. Do not leave too long and scrap or whisk continually so it doesn’t burn or stick to the pan bottom. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.
- Roll out the pastry to fit the tin. If not non-stick, line the tin with baking parchment. Line the tin with the pastry, leaving some overhang. No need to cut back neatly as pastry may shrink cooking anyway.
- Pour in the cooled custard, spreading it out over the tart base evenly.
- Place the fruit halves, skin side up, in rows over the custard base. Sprinkle over a little sugar.
- Cut open vanilla pod and scrape the seeds out over the tart.
- Bake in a preheated oven for around 25-30 minutes or until pastry edge is lightly golden and fruit slightly roasted on top.