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
- 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
- 3 mangoes, peeled and chopped – optional
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. If you don’t have an aga, put in a thick, flat, baking sheet.
- 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.
- Line a greased, flat pie or quiche dish (ideally a glass one – go here to find out why) with the pastry sheet.
- Spread the apricot mixture over the pastry and leave to cool until it just begins to form a skin.
- Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain marie.
- Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, until lighter coloured and frothy.
- Mix in the chocolate mixture, keeping it as airy as you can – don’t overmix or stir.
- 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.
- Sprinkle over the lemon zest.
- Serve with the crème fraîche and the fresh mango pieces if you are using.