Strawberry and pear tart

Serves 8
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Indy Lifestyle Online

This is the recipe I use for a basic fruit tart, making what the French call pâte sucrée, a buttery pastry. It needs nothing other than generous spoonfuls of fruit. Strawberries go nicely with pears; their flavour is surprisingly powerful when cooked. The quantity of pastry given here is a little more than is needed but it is better to have too much than too little.

1 10-inch tart tin with a removable base

For the pastry

500g/16oz plain flour
250g/8oz unsalted butter, very cold and diced into small cubes
11/2 tsp caster sugar
2-3 drops of vanilla extract
3 tbsp cold water
1 whole egg

For the filling

3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into small chunks
1 vanilla pod, split in half
The peel of one unwaxed lemon
80ml/3fl oz of water
A dozen strawberries, hulled and sliced in half lengthwise

For the top

1 egg, beaten
150g/5oz caster sugar
2 tsp sugar

Place the flour and butter into a food processor and pulse until you have the consistency of rough breadcrumbs. Now add the sugar, vanilla, water and egg. Turn on the machine and mix until the dough forms a ball. If you don't have a processor, combine quickly with cool hands using fridge-cold butter. Knead the mixture once or twice on a floured surface, roll in cling film and refrigerate for half an hour to rest.

Place the pears over a medium to low heat, add the vanilla, lemon peel and water and cook gently until the pears are tender but still holding their shape. This should take about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to return to room temperature. Stir in the strawberries and set aside while you roll out the pastry.

Divide the pastry in half; place one half on a floured work surface and roll out to an eighth-inch thick. Line the tart shell with the pastry, prick the base with a fork and return to the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Line the base of the tart with parchment paper, fill with baking beans and bake on the middle shelf for 10 minutes. Take out from the oven and remove the baking beans. The base should be just dry and biscuity and the edges beginning to brown slightly.

Allow to cool a little then spoon in the fruit mixture. Roll out the second half of the pastry and gently lay over the top, pressing firmly into the edges with your thumbs. Using a little knife, place a cross in the centre and brush generously with the egg wash and scatter over the sugar. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes then return to the oven for 20 minutes, at which time the top should be golden-brown and the fruit slightly bubbling up over the sides. Serve either warm or at room temperature, with lots of pouring cream.

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