~Ode to a Lemon-Lime Tart~ 

When it comes to lemons or limes, one expression is universal, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, I say let’s kick it up a notch and make a Lemon Lime Tart. Just like a Lemon, life is also bitter and sweet and we cannot grasp the essence of it until we understand prior and the latter both in their uniformity and to love this tart is to love both the sour and sweet blended together.

Since the ancient times, lemon has been deemed a symbol of prosperity and wealth as well as being a harvested food, a symbol of abundance. The journey of a Lemon is quite fascinating, being native to the Indian Sub-continent, the fruit was not harvested anywhere else in the world. With conquests and introduction of trade routes, the fruit travelled to Persia, from where, continued it’s journey into the Arabian Peninsula where the Arabs embraced the fruit vigorously. The Lemon thence, accompanied the Arabs in their conquests and trade dealings into Europe. The European gastronomical world was yet to be introduced prior to the Arabs to the lemon, and even though unknown to the European taste made a significant place for itself in their cuisine. This was a time when many regions in Europe were unaware of what and how to cultivate it and as it made it’s way into the Food culture, immediately became a symbol of luxury. In “Lemon: A Global History” Toby Sonneman states that “starting in the late eleventh century, Crusaders had brought back citrus and other desirable goods from the East and in much of Europe lemons remained both costly and coveted for centuries”. That is why back when it was first introduced in Europe, people who used lemons in their household were deemed extravagant and wealthy due to it being scant and costly.

The Lemon became a part of the Europe food culture sometime during the 15th century with the first cultivation in Genoa and introduced to the New Western World with the travels and discoveries of Christopher Columbus who brought the lemon seeds to Spain. The Spanish conquests thence spread the lemon throughout the New World with lemons being grown and harvested in California and Florida in the 17th and 18th century and were used in cooking and flavouring. It is also fascinating that the name “lemon” itself is the whole journey of the fruit from beginning to the end. The word first appeared around 13th century from the Middle English word “Limon”. Limon is an old French word indicating that the lemon entered England via France. Now, the Old French derives from the Italian “limone” which dates back to the Arabic “laymun” or “limun”, from the Persian word “limun”. I say, Wow! as that is phenomenal journey a Lemon has had over the course of history in its discovery and understanding of flavour. Don’t you think?

Now that the introduction is in order, let me come back to the recipe: The short crust pastry is home made but if you think you are not up for the challenge or just want to whip up this dessert quickly and effortlessly, then I guess it is alright to buy a store bought pre-made short crust pastry shell and usually, the lemon tarts I have seen have eggs included in it but I make this recipe the simplest way without using eggs or baking the filling at all. Yes, you read it right, if you are using a pre-made short crust pastry, then this is a No-Bake dessert, which makes it all the more inviting.

The filling is extremely glossy and luscious. It has a jello-like fluff and a cloud-like softness to it and as it chills in the fridge, with time the custard made does not harden or turns into a hard jello. It stays soft, airy and fluffy all the way through. I always use lemons and limes together in this dessert, where lime is a little bitter in taste, lemon is sour and both combined with sweetness just makes a perfect sweet and tangy flavour blend.

My Recipe calls for evaporated milk and condensed milk blended together. The thickening agent in the process is the lemon and lime juice. As soon as the citrus hits the milks it immediately starts making it go frothy and thick. There’s no cornstarch in there or gelatine to hold its jello consistency and texture, it’s all the work of the citrus. It can’t be any simpler than this. Once it’s blended it will still be in its runny form but as it chills in the fridge it will firm up enough to retain its soft texture. It is absolutely just as if you are eating a cloud with a burst of tangy flavour in all its sweetness.

The short crust pastry is ofcourse hands down, the best, I have ever made, Jamie Oliver’s recipe. This is my go to recipe as it’s perfectly crusty, crumbly and exceptionally easy. The trick with a perfect short crust pastry is to keep the butter and milk cold and do not over knead it. All it takes is to bring the dough together until it forms a dough ball, wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling it out. If you are following this process, there is no way you can go wrong with the pastry. It will bake gorgeous every time. This recipe is so simple, you won’t feel the need to buy any readymade after this, believe you me.

Now, for the tart pan, I would say, use a 12″ removable bottom tart pan, as for me that’s the perfect size for a tart. The servings for this will be around 6-7 people. I used the Flakes Chocolate bars to garnish the top but needless to say, that’s not a hard or fast rule, garnish this with whatever you desire or not at all and have it as is, which is either way absolutely delicious.

Okay before I jolt down the recipe, I want to pick your brain with one last thing, that is, besides a short crust pastry, Rich Tea Biscuits can also be used as the base of this tart. What you do, is you take a whole Rich Tea biscuit and you line a medium size rectangular Pyrex dish with them and then just pour half of the prepared citrus custard on top. place another layer of biscuits on top and pour the second layer of custard on top and just garnish it. The custard will make the biscuits go soggy and form a cake like texture once it’s chilled fully.

This is such a beautiful dessert, it’s a citrus lovers heaven. I love Pablo Neruda’ s “Ode to a Lemon” in which he has meticulously defined what a Lemon is, as he avers,

“Out of lemon flowers loosed on the moonlight …

Sodden with fragrance, the lemon tree’s Yellow emerges …

We open the halves of a miracle, and a clotting of acids brims into the starry divisions:

Creations original juices, irreducible, changeless, alive:

So the freshness lives on in a Lemon.

In the sweet smelling house of the rind …

A cup yellow with miracles … perfuming the earth …”

And I leave you with that.

Serves 78

Ingredients ~

Citrus Custard filling ~

1. Lime Juice squeezed — 10 tbsp

2. Lemon juice squeezed — 4 tbsp

3. Vanilla essence — 1 tsp

4. Evaporated Milk — 800 g

5. Condensed Milk — 397 g

6. Lime zest — 1 lime

Short Crust Pastry

1. All-purpose flour — 250 g

2. Cold butter — 4 oz

3. Icing Sugar — 100 g

4. Vanilla Pod/Vanilla essence — 1/ 1 tsp

5. Salt — a pinch

6. Lemon zest — 1/4 tsp

7. Cold Milk — 2 tbsp

8. Egg Yolks — 2

9. Chocolate shavings or Chocolate Flake Bar as garnish.

Method ~

1. Prepare the Crust

  • In a bowl, sift the flour.
  • Dice the cold butter into cubes and add to the flour.
  • Add in the icing sugar and start the rubbing method.
  • Rub the mix together until it starts to resemble like coarse wet sand.
  • It is important that you do not rub the butter too aggressively that it starts to soften or melt. Work quickly at this stage.
  • Pour in the cold mil and just knead enough until it all comes together and makes a dough ball. There is no need for excessive kneading.
  • Wrap this in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • After it’s rested and chilled, smack the dough a couple of times to loosen it and roll it out to about half a centimetre thick or to your desired liking.
  • Take an 12 inch tart pan with a removable bottom and roll the dough onto it letting it fall naturally into the tart pan.
  • Place the dough properly in the tart and cut off the excess dough round the outside.
  • Poke holes on the bottom with a fork to prevent the dough from rising up.
  • Put a cling film on top of the tart and pour some rice or baking beans in it and fold the sides in to Blind bake the pastry first.
  • Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes at 180C.
  • After ten minutes take it out of the oven and remove the baking beans and put it back in the oven for another 4 minutes to give it some colour.
  • Take out and let it rest on the counter to cool until you make your filling.

View the video of Jamie Oliver’s Baked Short Crust Pastry.

    2. Prepare the Filling

    • In a bowl, squeeze out the lemon and lime juice and set aside.
    • Take a Jug blender and pour the evaporated milk and evaporated milk in.
    • Start whizzing it up or if you prefer, use a hand mixer. Either way works fine.
    • As you are whizzing it, start pouring the lemon and lime juice in a tablespoon at a time. You will start to see the custard thicken up.
    • After you have added about 13 tablespoons to it, have a look and a have a taste. If the custard is still in a runny form add a little more citrus juice. It has to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and if you slide a line between the line will still be there. That is when you know it’s the perfect consistency. Also, if you think it’s not tarty or tangy enough add a tablespoon more until it’s your desired liking.
    • Add the vanilla essence and the zest of the lime and mix to incorporate.
    • Set aside.
    • Once the tart shell has cooled down, pour the custard in it. If you have left over leave it in the fridge and just eat it with some digestive or rich tea biscuits.
    • Level out the custard in the tart and garnish with Flakes Chocolate bar or any chocolate shavings.
    • Add some twisted thin lime wedges and zest as garnish as well.
    • Chill in the fridge for atleast 6-8 hours or over-night.

    ~ Happy Foodieating~

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