Tarte Tatin

There seems to be a great mystique surrounding Tarte Tatin but it really isn’t difficult to do. After all, the original Tatin was allegedly an accident! Credit for this version: the ever-reliable Mireille Johnston

The best implement to cook it in is a heavy frying pan (preferably non-stick) that will go in the oven. But if you don’t have a suitable one, you can cook the apples in a frying pan, then tip them into a cake tin and cover with pastry.

Note: I often just buy ready-made pastry for this rather than making it.

150 g flour
1 1/2 tbs caster sugar
1 tsp salt
75 g cold butter
2 tbs vegetable oil
3-4 tbs cold water

1.5 kg firm apples (I use Granny Smiths)
75 g butter
175 g sugar
juice and grated zest of 2 lemons

Make the pastry in the usual way, and chill in the fridge until ready to use. It will seem quite soft, but don’t worry about this.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. Peel, core and quarter the apples. If they are very large you can halve the quarters again, but you need large pieces because you don’t want them to disintegrate. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the sugar and about a tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir it about for a few minutes until it bubbles and turns pale yellow. Put the apples into the pan (you don’t need to “arrange” them, but the pan should be full), sprinkle over the rest of the lemon juice and the zest and cook over a moderately high heat for about 20 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally and if necessary carefully turn the apples with a spoon to stop them sticking. The apples and juice should be a rich mahogany colour. Set aside to cool slightly. If the pan won’t go into the oven, transfer to a cake tin at this point.

Roll out the pastry and use it to cover the apples. Trim to a bit larger than the pan, then tuck the edges gently inside the rim. Cut a couple of small slashes in the dough and bake for about 40 minutes until the pastry is brown. The juices bubbling up might look burnt, but have faith! The more caramelised they are, the better it will taste.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges gently with a palette knife. Then put a plate upside down on top, hold the pan and plate firmly together (wearing oven gloves obviously) and then turn the whole thing upside down. Give the pan a tap if the tart is sticking. Then gently lift off the pan. If any pieces of apple have stuck to it, lever them off with the palette knife and put them back in place.

Serve warm, with a dollop of creme fraiche or a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream.

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