Nigella’s Christmas Feast: Bitter orange tart
This is more than a simplified revision of my Seville Orange Tart in How To Eat. It uses a crushed gingernut-and-butter base in place of homemade pastry, and is even more acerbically – and excitingly – sharp. I love its cheek-squeaky, sherbetty bitterness, but I serve a small pot of good honey alongside, and urge everyone (to the point of irritation) to drizzle some over as they eat.
CUTS INTO 10-14 SLICES
FOR THE BASE
250g gingernuts or plain
75g soft unsalted butter
FOR THE CURD FILLING
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
zest and 140ml juice from
1 large or 2 medium oranges
60ml lime juice (from 2-3 limes) 150g soft unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes
good runny honey
- Process the ginger biscuits until crumbled and no longer whole, then add the butter and process again, patiently waiting until it begins to clump and look like damp, dark sand. If you don’t have a processor, put the ginger biscuits in a resealable plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin or similar heavy implement, even if it’s one with less comedy value. Melt the butter, and transfer the crumbs to a bowl. Mix in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly coated.
- Tip into a 24cm loose-bottomed, shallow flan tin, and carefully spread the biscuit base all around the tin and up the sides; you can do this with your hands or the back of a spoon.
- Put the tin in the fridge, to allow the biscuit base to harden, for at least 1 hour – although it may take up to 2 hours if your fridge is stacked. I often find it easier to get the base done in advance, so it’s coolly ready and waiting, in which case, I do it up to two days ahead.
- Once your base is set firm you can get on with your curd filling. In a heavy-based saucepan – off the heat – whisk together both the whole eggs and the yolks and sugar, making sure you incorporate them well.
- Add the orange zest (grate gently so you don’t get the pith, too) and juice from the oranges and limes along with the cubes of butter, then put the pan over a medium heat and cook, stirring constantly; I use a small flat whisk.
- This thickening process will take 5-7 minutes, but do take it off the heat regularly during this time, while you carry on whisking, to prevent it from getting too hot. Once the curd has thickened, take it off the heat, keep whisking for about 30 seconds, and carry on doing so as you pour it straight into a jug (it makes about 550ml). Then place a piece of dampened baking parchment or greaseproof paper on top of the filling (this will stop it forming a skin), and let it cool in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Once the filling has cooled, but not set solid, pour and scrape it into your biscuit-lined tin and spread it out evenly.
- Let the tart set further in the fridge for at least 4 hours (or overnight), and up to two days, before unmoulding. This is best done while it is still cold – so don’t take it out of the fridge for more than 5-10 minutes before you want to cut it. Then serve in slices, with a little pot of honey for people to drizzle over.
MAKE-AHEAD TIP The base can be made two days in advance and stored in fridge until needed, covered loosely with clingfilm. Once firm, the base (in its tin) can also be wrapped tightly in a double layer of clingfilm and a layer of foil and frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge for 2-3 hours before filling. The curd can be made two days ahead. Fill the tart and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until the curd has become firmer, then tent loosely with foil, trying not to touch the surface of the tart.
STORE TIP Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for two days. The tart base will soften gradually as the tart stands.