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Rowley Leigh's Seville orange tart

A gentleman told me last night that he had cut out my recipe from last September for pumpkin risotto and was going to “do it soon”. People often tell me that they cut out my recipes for later use. It is very flattering. It is comforting, also, to think of these scrapbooks in people’s homes, crammed with greying pieces of my culinary wisdom.

But I am not sure why these recipes are not followed straight away. I always plan them to be seasonal. I didn’t have the heart to explain that the pumpkin risotto will have to wait for the autumn. Similarly, some of these recipes, inevitably, can seem a bit complicated. I avoid deploying too many ingredients but I have never advocated the quick and easy for its own sake.

This preamble serves as a warning. If you are to follow today’s recipe – and it is not kindergarten simple – you have to act NOW. Seville oranges have a very, very short season. There are cooks who remember that it is time to make marmalade just when the season has finished. Those of you with a capacious freezer may buy yourselves a bit of time but be warned that they will nag your conscience until the moment is seized.

We in Britain are the only ones who really “get” Seville oranges. I love marmalade but, for various reasons (indolence for one), never make it. But I do use the juice and zest with olive oil and marjoram as a dressing for fish. I get my pastry cook to make a Seville orange pudding, served with custard, as a comfort in this filthy weather. And now I have made this tart, like lemon tart but a little shallower. It is sweet and sharp and if you can resolve to make it very soon, you will not be disappointed. And I am going to put some more Seville oranges in the freezer.

Seville orange tart


The pastry can be made well in advance. Serves up to eight.

The pastry:

Rowley Leigh's Seville orange tart

120g unsalted butter

100g light brown caster sugar

2 egg yolks

140g plain flour

A pinch of salt

24cm tart ring

1 egg

● Cream the butter and sugar until light and aerated (this is best done with the blending arm of an electric mixer). Add the egg yolks one by one and beat until amalgamated. Add the sieved flour and the salt and very gently knead into a paste without overworking the flour. Shape into a slightly flattened ball, wrap in film and refrigerate for one hour.

● Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. Allowing extra for the depth of the tin and to overlap the sides a little, roll it out to a disc of at least 27cm in diameter. Carefully drop the pastry into the ring, making sure it fits right into the corners and hangs over the edge of the ring at every point. Do not cut off this overhang. Make absolutely sure there are no holes in the pastry, using any excess overhang to carry out repairs. Refrigerate the case for 30 minutes.

● Line the interior of the case with greaseproof paper or foil and baking beans. Bake in a moderate (180C) preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove the baking beans and paper from the case and return to the oven for five minutes to finish cooking the base.

● Beat the egg with a tablespoon of milk and brush the interior of the case the minute it comes out of the oven and is still very hot. Return the shell to the oven for three or four minutes to bake the egg coating and thus ensure there are no holes in the case.

● Allow to cool a little.

The filling:

Rowley Leigh's Seville orange tart

5 Seville oranges

4 eggs plus 1 yolk

150g caster sugar

150ml double cream

50g caster sugar for the syrup

Icing sugar for dusting

● Very finely grate the zest of three of the oranges into a bowl and then squeeze well and strain the juice into the bowl. Whisk together the eggs and yolk and the sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mix is smooth. Pour in the double cream. Mix well before stirring in the juice and zest.

● Lower the oven temperature to 150C. Place the tart tin on the middle shelf of the oven a third of the way out of the oven. Carefully pour in the mixture and slide it into the oven. It will take about 40 minutes to cook. If the surface threatens to colour, cover it with foil. To test, give the tray a nudge – there should be no sign of liquid movement beneath the surface of the tart.

● While the tart cooks, peel the zest of the remaining two oranges. Cut into fine strips. Put in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then strain and refresh them in cold water. Repeat this operation and then dissolve the 50g of sugar in 150ml of water. Bring this syrup to the boil and then poach the blanched strips gently in it until they are well candied. Drain over a sieve.

● Allow the tart to cool a little before sawing off the overhang with a serrated knife and gently lifting off the tart ring. Transfer the tart to a plate only once it has completely cooled and refrigerate. Dust with a sprinkling of icing sugar and serve chilled with the candied zest and no other accompaniment.


Rowley’s drinking choice

Aged Semillon – in Sauternes, Barsac or Australia – takes on a marmalade-like flavour. When it acquires a barley sugar character coupled with residual acidity, it is ambrosial and perfect for this exceptional tart.


Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais


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