Lebanese chocolate and apricot tart

Several decades ago I was with the Saucy Dressings’ Chief Taster on the way to a business meeting in Shepherds Market (yes, really, I know it’s famed for other activities) in London. We were hopelessly early, so we went into a Lebanese restaurant – and that was the beginning of my love affair with Lebanese food – almost the best of middle-eastern food in my view.

A few years later, long before Ottolenghi and Comptoir Libanais, I began researching Lebanese food. I found this recipe (not itself Lebanese) which incorporates an apricot paste known as amradeen, or apricot leather in The Lebanon and Syria. The recipe has became an absolute family favourite, a constant stalwart, especially for large parties – you can make it ahead of time and reheat gently.

It’s even good cold, served on its own in small slices, with coffee.

Recipe for Lebanese chocolate and apricot tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 320g/11 oz sweet shortcrust pastry sheet – chilled. Or make your own – go here to find out how
  • 250g/9 oz soft dried apricots
  • 4 tbsp water
  • juice and zest of a small lemon
  • 150g/5 oz butter
  • 200g/7 oz dark chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g/⅓ cup golden caster sugar
  • 180ml/¾ cup crème fraîche; or ginger curd
  • 3 mangoes, peeled and chopped – optional; or some extra dried apricots, soaked in rum and roughly chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 210°C . If you don’t have an Aga, put in a thick, flat, baking sheet.
  2. Line a greased, flat pie or quiche dish (ideally a glass one – go here to find out why) with the pastry sheet. Bake blind in a oven for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile chop the apricots finely and simmer in a medium-sized saucepan with the lemon juice and water for about five minutes. Blend in the saucepan with a stick blender.
  4. Spread the apricot mixture over the pastry and leave to cool until it just begins to form a skin.
  5. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain marie.
  6. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, until lighter coloured and frothy.
  7. Mix in the chocolate mixture, keeping it as airy as you can – don’t overmix or stir.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Pour the mix over the apricot mixture, and then bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. It should still be wobbly, and with a thin crust just forming. If it doesn’t have this crust, put back in the oven for another five minutes.
  9. Sprinkle over the lemon zest.
  10. Serve with the crème fraîche, and, separately, the fresh mango pieces if you are using.
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