My late mother-in-law was a wonderful cook, entirely self-taught, with a particular talent for pastry- and cake-making. She had a lightness of touch, a fine palate and an innate understanding of good ingredients. She was also an entirely English cook, producing the sort of fine traditional food that makes grown men weep: the tartest fruit pies, flans and crumbles, the most succulent roasts, the tastiest gravies, the lightest steamed puddings.
Here is her recipe for Almond Tart.
You will notice that this recipe calls for Stork (a South African margarine or vegetable shortening designed for baking). Audrey wasn't a margarine eater - the very idea of putting it on toast would have appalled her - but she always insisted that vegetable shortening made the lightest and best pastry. Use butter if you like, but Stork is best.
I wouldn't dream of changing this recipe, but I have one thing to add to it: roll your pastry out between sheets of cling film (and I bless Rachel Allen for this excellent tip), which makes it so easy to handle.
Audrey's Almond Tart
For the pastry:
250 g cake flour
150 g cold Stork margarine, or similar vegetable shortening, cut into small cubes
about 100 ml ice-cold water (see recipe, below)
For the filling:
100 g soft butter
100 g caster sugar
1 whole egg
2 T (30 ml) self-raising flour
70 g ground almonds
5 ml (1 t) natural almond extract, or almond essence
5 T (75 ml) raspberry or apricot jam, slightly warmed
Preheat the oven to 190° C. First make the pastry. Put the flour and the margarine into a bowl, and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the cold water, bit by bit, until the pastry just holds together. Knead lightly with your fingertips and press into a ball. (You can do this quickly in a food processor fitted with a metal blade: use the pulse button to process the flour and margarine, and add the cold water in splashes, through the tube of the jug, until the pastry comes together and forms a mass. Don't over-process the dough).
Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and put it in the fridge while you make the filling.
Using a whisk or electric whisk, cream together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the egg, self-raising flour, almonds and almond essence.
Place a long piece of cling film on a marble slab, or your countertop. Put the cold pastry ball on top, and cover with another piece of clingfilm. Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry into a rough circle about 22 cm in diameter, and about 2 mm thick. (Roll the pin in the same direction, but give the pastry a quarter turn every two rolls). Grease an 18-cm-diameter flan or pie dish (no need if you have a non-stick flan dish).
Peel off the top layer of cling film, wrap the pastry over your rolling pin, and centre it, pastry-side down, on the pie dish. Gently peel away the clingfilm and, using your fingertips, lightly press the pastry into the dish. Use a sharp knife to trim the pastry level with the edge of the flan dish. Prick the base of the pastry cake all over with a fork, and then spread thinly with jam. Put blobs of the almond filling on top of the jam, and smooth the surface with a spatula.
Roll the remaining scraps of pastry into a long rectangle (again, between sheets of cling film) and then cut into thin strips. Put the strips in a criss-cross or lattice fashion across the top of the tart (you can twist each strip first, if you like.)
Bake at 190° C for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is golden and puffed up. Delicious warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.
Makes one 18-cm tart.