Tarte de nata com Nêspera.This years solution to an annual challenge.

This April our little Nêspera tree that we have grown from a kernel surprised us by all of a sudden endowing us with a bountiful crop. At the time it surprised me even more as I had not noticed much evidence of this seasonal fruit in the market. Every year this tiresome (in its prep) fruit sets me a challenge. Back in the day when I was part of the team in the art department at British Vogue it would be the rainwear story that bestowed the annual challenge on me, along with it being notoriously the kiss of death to the photographer given the assignment. Onwards and upwards to the Algarve 2021, no rainwear was going to get in  the way of either this problematic fruit or its cook.I racked my brains yet again and luckily the pandemic had not drained me of creative juices, but left me with a larder load of jams and marmalades, so that was not going to be a solution. I have given
you my recipe for Bolo Nespera many times, so what was left? Chutney naaaah, compote naaaaah, all that left was another cake or wait a minute, a tart. This was to be a tart like no other, a nespêra custard tart. No mean little tart, a tarte grande, this elegant tart could be made with just about any fruit.Those lovely little Portuguese Rocha pears immediately rush to mind but Nêsperas work particularly well this time of year. I garnished it with some mint leaves and storm clouds changed.
Tarte de nata com nêspera
Makes 8 servings

11/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold butter (cut into small pieces)
3 tablespoons ice water

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter (cut into small pieces)
11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar
4 cups nêsperas, peeled, seeded and halved (use ripe pears if nêsperas are unavailable)
Mint leaves, to garnish

For the crust: Process the flour and butter in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. With the motor running, add the water through the feed tube and process until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Press the tart dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9- or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Freeze for 20 to 30 minutes until very firm.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Prick the bottom of the tart shell at 1-inch intervals with a fork and line the crust snugly with foil. Bake 12-15 minutes until crust is set and just beginning to brown. Remove foil and bake until crust is golden brown, 10-12 minutes more. Set the crust on a wire rack and cool completely.

For the custard: In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, and whisking constantly, boil for 4-5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Gradually whisk in about 1 cup of the hot-milk mixture to the egg. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and, whisking constantly, simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly thicker. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the butter, vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg, and stir until the butter is melted. Pour the custard into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.

For the tart: Bring the water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil, then remove from heat. Gently stir the loquats into the thin syrup and let them sit for about 5 minutes. This will help set the fruit’s color and assure an even flavor. Pour the nêsperas into a strainer and let most of the syrup drip off.

Spread the custard evenly into the tart crust. Arrange the nêspera halves on top and garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.


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