marco pierre white’s lemon tart
I recently got hold of a copy of Marco Pierre White’s White Heat book from the library. It is a cookbook but really it’s a capture of a time and a place: when Marco was on top of the culinary world and the absolute hottest thing in chefs and cookery. I hadn’t read it before; I devoured it an hour and immediately ordered a copy for myself.
The photography, all black and white, is still crisp, clear and full of motion and emotion. The words from Marco are full of his cool directness. The recipes are surprisingly good; unpretentious and focused on celebrating a core ingredient. One stood out to me: Marco Pierre White’s lemon tart.
It should come as no surprise there is a similarity. The backgrounds of Marco and Heston overlap. Heston’s first job at a restaurant was a week spent at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. They struck up a friendship that stuck. While Heston ploughed his unique furrow Marco did the traditional route of moving up from kitchen to kitchen learning from Pierre Koffman, Albert and Michel Roux Sr and Raymond Blanc as mentioned. The classic French method was drummed into him, and while Heston studied at home it was the French classics he drilled. Heston even spent time at White’s Canteen to learn how to run a team of chefs before opening The Fat Duck.
I made the lemon tart immediately. It is thick and custardy, very satisfying. Though he does recommend grilling the top to brulee the sugar topping, I found it hard to protect the pastry from burning – I would cover the pastry in foil if trying again. As a recipe itself it also lacks crucial detail. We’re told to mix the filling ingredients – but until when? Just combined? Beaten smooth? And there’s no indication what size pie dish you should be using. The depth of the filling means you can’t tell when it will cook convincingly. I’m all for improvising in the kitchen – an advocate in fact – but with pastry dishes precision is everything.
I couldn’t help but compare Marco and Heston’s tarts. Heston has an unnecessarily fussy pastry recipe, but has the smart idea to part-set the custard over a bain marie before transferring to the oven. And in classic Heston style check the set temperature with a probe to get consistent results. And to avoid burning use a blowtorch to finish.
Overall I found Heston’s far more enjoyable, more what I expect of a lemon tart. The lemon had more zing, and the filling itself is unctuous and creamy.
If I was to make it again, I’d use whatever pastry recipe you are happy with, or even buy a dcent pre-made case, then go Heston’s method for the filling. It’s dead easy, just warm things in a bowl over the hob, then pour into the case. You will need a probe thermometer.
Both great recipes, but fascinating to explore what makes the differences.
marco pierre white's lemon tart
For the tart case:
- 500 g plain flour
- 175 g icing sugar
- 250 g butter diced
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- grains from 1 vanilla pod
- 1½ eggs
- 50 g sieved icing sugar
For the lemon filling:
- 9 eggs
- 400 g caster sugar
- 5 lemons zest of 2 and juice of all 5
- 250 ml double cream
For the pastry:
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Sieve the flour and icing sugar and rub in the butter.
- Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla seeds.
- Beat the eggs and add to the mix. Knead the mixture with fingers, then wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a size just large enough to fill the flan tin or ring to be used.
- Using either a greased flan ring on a greased baking sheet, or a greased flan tin with a removable base, fold the dough into it. Gently ease the dough into the corners of the tin, ensuring a good 1cm/2in overhang. Do not cut this off.
- Line the flan with greaseproof paper and fill with enough dry baking beans or lentils to ensure that the sides as well as the base are weighted. This helps give a good finished flan shape.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the beans and greaseproof paper and trim the overhang from the flan. Return the flan to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
For the lemon filling:
- Whisk the eggs with the sugar and the lemon zest.
- Stir in the lemon juice and then fold in the cream. Remove any froth from the top of the mixture.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 120C.
- Pour the cold filling into the hot pastry (this ensures that the pastry case will be sealed and hold the filling) and bake for 30 minutes in the oven.
- Pre-heat a very hot grill.
- Sieve the icing sugar over the tart as soon as it comes out of the oven and then flash it briefly under the grill to caramelize the sugar.