I wrote most of this post over a month ago so apologies for the delay. I have since been holidaying in France ( a fig tart to come on this, never have figs tasted so good) packed up my flat and moved house from Camden to Hackney and more to the point am now without cooker. Waaa. Baking it turns out is tricky in a countertop oven – the fact that none of my baking trays fit rather hinders the process. So far however, I’ve been to two kindly friend’s houses to bake – you forget how used you get to your own oven and its quirks until you use a new one so it’s been an experience! Thankfully there’s only a week till I’m with cooker again. Hurrah!…
The two years until recently that I spent in Camden, I walked the same route daily to the high street as you do, never noticing a particular set of large trees, despite their size and differences. Then recently en route home one sunny afternoon, a section of pavement littered with small yellow fruit caught my attention and looking up I discovered there were in fact three large trees, each completely laden with these yellow plum-like fruit, just hanging there minding their own business.
I pocketed one and once home deciphered that they were in fact Mirabelle plums. Popular in France, they grow wild in the UK as well as being cultivated in Essex. Naturally sweet, Mirabelle can be eaten straight from the tree (I can vouch for this) and are versatile enough to be used in a variety of ways including jam, tarts, chutney or even poached.
Sadly the majority of these plums seemed destined to be squished underfoot as the residents of Camden bought fruit from shops only yards away. Realising this opportunity couldn’t go to waste I enlisted my boyfriend, retrieved the stepladders from the cupboard under the stairs and set about gathering some Mirabelle bounty. On a busy Camden side street (Pratt Street, NW1) with cafes opposite, we decided to gather after dinner when the light was low and there was less chance of ‘interested’ parties enquiring to our actions. Perched atop the ladder, bag in hand I picked as much fruit as I could reach from various spots and left with a satisfactorily full bag destined for a sweet tart.
On our annual holiday to the South of France in August I came across Mirabelle for sale in Casino, one of France’s large supermarkets and surprisingly there was no discernible difference between them and my Camden bounty. In France, the ‘Mirabelle Prune’ is most popular in the Lorraine region where they grow 70% of the world’s production. Only available from July to mid-September, the season is short so you have to be quick to take advantage of these flavourful little plums. The capital of the Lorraine region, Metz holds an annual two-week festival in August where as well as open markets selling fresh Mirabelle produce such as tarts and liquor accompanied by live music, fireworks, a parade and the crowning of a Mirabelle Queen.
Mirabelle Plum Tart Recipe
Any small plum will do for this recipe or if using larger ones, cut them into even size chunks so they cook in time. I decided to use the Mirabelle plums halved and on top of a filling of pastry cream, the recipe of which I learnt along with my basic pastry recipe. The plums are best used when still firm as the stone is rather tricky to remove if they a bit soft. I’d also recommend packing them in on top as much as possible as they have a tendency to shrink when baked. Being seasonal and not the easiest to come by I appreciate you may have trouble finding these little plums, especially in the US where under a federal ban, they’re not allowed to be imported (hilarious) so simply substitute them for another variety.
There’s enough pastry for an 8 inch tart tin, you can of course make a double quantity and freeze the rest for later if you like. The tin I used is a rectangular one on long-term loan from my mum’s kitchen 🙂 For detailed tops on making sweet paste, check out my sweet paste recipe post here…
250g soft flour
60g caster sugar
1 whole egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
*Egg wash – 1 egg lightly whisked with a pinch of salt
- Cream the butter and sugar in the mixer with the paddle attachment until just combined
- Lightly whisk the egg, vanilla and salt together in a bowl and add it slowly to the butter and sugar until fully incorporated.
- Add the flour and on slow mix until the the ingredients just come together as a ball of dough.
- Tip out out onto a lightly floured work surface and finish by hand, kneading briefly until smooth.
- Shape the dough into a disc and wrap in clingfilm then chill for at least half and hour
- Make pastry cream – see recipe below
- Once chilled, roll out, line the tin, prick holes in the pastry and prep for blind baking with a cartouche and baking beans. Chill for another 30 mins minimum and preheat the oven to 180C.
- Blind bake for 15mins then removed the paper and beans, egg wash the pastry and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown
- Leave to cool before adding the cold pastry cream.
250g whole milk
60g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
1-2 tsps vanilla extract or the 1 vanilla pod, seeds and pod
15g cold cubed butter
- In a saucepan bring the milk, butter and vanilla almost to the almost boil
- In a separate bowl whisk the sugar and yolks till pale in colour and a light ribbon consistency
- Add the flour and salt to the egg mix and whisk in thoroughly
- Just as the milk reached the boil add to the egg mixture, keep whisking till combined then add all back to the pan and continue to cook out the flour for a few minutes on medium low heat, whisking continuously
- After a few minutes whisking, and once the mix has thickened and you can’t taste the flour remove it from the heat and whisk in the cold cubed butter.
- Immediately pour the finished cream into a baking dish or bowl and cover the top with a layer of cling film, placing the wrap directly on the surface of the cream – this will stop it forming a skin. Yuk!
- Refrigerate immediately. Can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge. Remove the vanilla pod before using!
300g firm Mirabelle plums, halved (or 300g other small plums of large plums quartered etc)
50g Apricot jam
- Preheat the oven to 160C
- Spread the cool pastry cream into the tart case.
- Add the plums segments, laying them as you wish on top with skin side down
- Bake the tart for about 30 mins or until the plums are cooked through. Take out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Bring the jam and water to the boil in a small saucepan then strain though a sieve and brush the glaze over the plums.
- Enjoy. Warm if you can’t wait. Cold if you can 🙂
Happy Baking! x