One of the things that I love about this time of year, is the arrival of an array of different coloured fruits and vegetables in the markets and supermarkets. From red, orange, yellow, green’ and ‘black’ tomatoes (actually more a deep purple red, but called ‘black’), to green, orange and yellow courgettes. And orange, yellow, white and violet carrots (See ‘Cocotte de veau avec carottes violettes et gingembre’) to purple and orange cauliflowers!
I resisted the temptation of buying the purple cauliflower, as I was not sure that I would fancy eating something this ‘exotic’ but I was tempted by the orange one.
There is also an abundance of other wonderful richly coloured fruits, such as bright crimson plumbs and deep purple ‘quetsches’ and gorgeous orange and yellow ‘Mirabelles’ blushed with rose.
MIrabelles are small oval ‘plums’ that in France only grow in the Lorraine region in the extreme east, notably around the towns of Nancy and Metz. My head office is at Nancy, so I get to visit here from time to time. At the heart of this lovely town is the a beautiful ‘Place Stanislas’ (fondly known as ‘Stan’), named after Stanislaw I a former king of Poland, who was the father in law of the French King Louis XV, and it is surrounded by some very impressive buildings, including the stately ‘Hotel de Ville’, the ‘Musee de Beaux Arts, the Opera-Theatre’, and even a mini ‘Arc de Triomphe’ (Arche Heré).
Place Stan is a great meeting place and is also has several cafés where you can sit and people watch and during the summer evenings watch the magical spectacle of coloured lights being projected onto the all the grand buildings illuminating the square.
Back to the Mirabelles – the larger, sweeter fruit that is grown near Nancy is best eaten fresh, while the smaller, harder, fruit grown near Metz makes excellent tarts, jam and even brandy!
This time I have made a tart ………
Shortcrust pastry (If you prefer sweet pastry (paté sucré), see my post for ‘Tarte aux Mures’)
200g/7oz plain flour (Aldi was my favorite in the UK, but Francine ‘farine de ble pour tous usages’ works well)
80g TREX (100g margarine – TREX has a higher water content so 20% less is needed)
1 egg yolk (jaune)
2 dessertspoons (cuilleres de soupe) of ice cold water
A pinch of salt
Chop in the TREX (or equivalent) with a cold knife into the flour, then quickly work it into breadcrumbs using the tips of your fingers only and lifting the mixture from the bowl as you work it, to get as much air in the mixture as possible
Cut the egg yolk into the mixture again using a cold knife
Add the water (direct from the fridge) and mix all together with a cold knife
Quickly draw the mixture into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to ‘rest’ for at least 30 minutes (alternatively put in the freezer if not ready to use immediately)
Remove from fridge a couple of minutes before rolling out to fit a 12” (30xm) flan/quiche dish
Put back in fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use
Always allow hot fillings to completely cool before putting into uncooked tart or quiche pastry, as otherwise it will make the pastry ‘soggy’ instead of ‘crisp’
1lb/500g of mirabelles
½ pt /200ml of single cream (crème fraiche liquide)
2 sachets/15g of vanilla sugar
A good pinch of nutmeg (muscade)
1 tablespoon/ 2 cuillers a soupe of plum jam (confiiture de prune) – I used my own home made plum and Mirabelle jam
Lightly beat the eggs with the sugar and stir in the cream and the nutmeg
Line the bottom of the tarte with jam (if it is slightly warm it will spread easier)
Cut the mirabelles in half and arrange in circles around the tart
Pour over the custard mixture and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 4 for 35-40 minutes, until the custard is set and the pastry golden.
Delicous warm or cold with a little crème fraiche
if you cannot find mirabelles, this tarte works well with plums or gooseberries.