Cherry tart with a surprise ingredient – tahini

If you research into the history of pies and tarts (as I am currently doing, putting together a book on the subject in aid of The Burnt Chef Project) you will read everywhere that Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed the first cherry pie, and, indeed, some fanciful accounts even have her going into the palace kitchens and inventing it herself. 

There is absolutely no evidence of this whatsoever. What we do know (thanks to Janet Clarkson‘s excellent book) is that not one, but two, persons in her household staff gave her an orangeado pie – a pie of apples and oranges in syrup. However, it seems likely that other ladies of the time may well have enjoyed an apple pie, doused with cherry juice. A contemporaneous poet, Robert Greene wrote Menaphon, a tale in which one of the characters offers a lady a most outrageous piece of flattery, saying:

“Carmela deare, even as the golden ball
That Venus got, such are thy goodly eyes,
When cherries juice is jumbled therewithall,
Thy breath is like the steeme of apple pies.”

It’s a short route from cherry juice to cherries, and these days Waitrose reports that sales of traditional puddings (trifle, sticky toffee pudding, cherry pie) were up by 60% in 2020, a year of lockdowns and yearning for comfort. 

This was a pudding served at a board meeting…and it went down well with all the captains of industry, served hot along with ice cream.

Then, what remained, was cut into rectangles, and served cold to sustain those labouring at the pit face (ie in the downstairs office).

I got the idea of including tahini from a recipe published in The Daily Telegraph (sadly, I don’t know the author). It seemed a bit way out, but the nuttiness of the sesame seeds in the tahini echo the nuttiness of the almonds, and works brilliantly. It was a great success, hot or cold, with everybody. You can also experiment with sprinkling over a very controlled amount of smoked salt.

An alternative to this would be a cherry Bakewell tart (post to come).

Pair this with a cherry spirit – a hearty kirsch for example.

Recipe for cherry tart with a surprise ingredient – tahini

Serves about eight with ice cream

Ingredients

  • 100g/4 oz toasted flaked almonds
  • 100g/4 oz butter
  • 75g/⅓ cup tahini
  • 50g/¼ cup soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsps honey
  • 2 large beaten eggs
  • 2 tbsps plain flour
  • 160g/6 oz – one sheet of all butter puff pastry – or you could roll it out yourself
  • 250g/8 oz pitted cherries – frozen or tinned and drained; or, most deliciously, if you have the patience, fresh cherries which you have pitted yourself. At Christmas you might also find jars of cherries pickled in hooch.
  • Cream or ice cream (especially good with home made, no-churn ice cream)

Method

  1. Put the almonds, butter, tahini, sugar, honey, flour and one egg into the Magimix and blend. If it’s very stiff add a couple of teaspoons of Grand Marnier, or damson or sloe gin, or kirsch, or cassis.
  2. Roll out the pastry and put it on a silicone sheet on a baking sheet.
  3. Cut a frame deeply, but not completely through, a couple of cm in from the edge.
  4. Spread the almond dough over the pastry inside the frame.
  5. Fold the pastry frame over itself to give it double height.
  6. Beat the second egg, and paint the whole thing with it.
  7. Press the cherries into the soft almond dough.
  8. Bake for half an hour. Then reduce the oven temperature to 150ºC, cover with foil and cook for another twenty minutes.

Music to cook to

Juliette Gréco sings Le Temps de Cerises.

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