Voilà – la tarte au citron
Here in the South of France, recalling my school girl French, I’ve been remembering my high school French teacher, Mlle. P. We loved her. She was blond, beautiful, fun, and a fabulous teacher. She was also really old. Easily twenty-five. Possibly thirty!!
She started our grade nine French class with fifteen minutes of conversational French and the rule was – we could say whatever we liked, so long as we said it in French. We got points for participation and extra points for being the first team to say something. It worked and it was way more fun than conjugating verbs full-time.
We worked with a “conversational partner” and a French dictionary. She would give us a starting point – usually a tidbit of news, or a comment about a recent movie, or sometimes – a question. She didn’t write this on the board – she said it out loud so we had to listen. Often we really had very little clue what she had said. Like this particular time…
“Ecoutez!” (listen) she began, “Que pensez-vous de ma nouvelle couleur de cheveux?”
She gave us a minute to work with our partners to jot down an answer. My partner – a boy – quickly and confidently translated this question as, ‘What do you think of the new colour of my horses?”
Seemed odd but reasonable enough. But why would horses change colour? Maybe her horses had changed colour because they had rolled in manure. Horses will do that – we surmised. We got out our dictionaries and raced to be the first ones to come up with an appropriate answer and since it was my turn, I said, “Nous pensons que vos chevaux sont couverts dans la merde.” (We think your horses are covered in shit.) Our dictionary did not have a word for manure and we happened to know the word merde quite well. Plus the rule was – we could say whatever we liked so long as we said it in French.
To her credit – she laughed out loud. “Pas mes chevaux – c’est mes cheveux!” (Not my horses, my hair) she said, holding up a strand of her long blonde hair.
I’ll never forget that moment – because that’s the first time I ever realized that her gorgeous blonde hair was fake. Quelle surprise. Quelle deception. Such a letdown.
Which brings me to this recipe for Tarte au Citron. I like my lemon things to taste real. Not sickeningly sweet and bright yellow and fake but instead tart and tangy and lemony. No surprise. No deception. The real thing.
Tarte au citron
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter (or margarine for a dairy-free version)
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used three fresh lemons)
1-2 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Fresh or frozen berries and whipping cream to garnish
Mix the base ingredients together using either a food processor on pulse or if you work like me – just use a bowl with a fork or a pastry cutter. The mixture should be fairly crumbly but hold together when pressed. Press into a very lightly greased 9 inch spring form pan. Bake at 325°F for about 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edge.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until frothy – this will take a few minutes. Then add the lemon rind and juice and beat lightly. Stir in the flour.
Pour over the partially cooked base. Return to the oven at 325°F for about 25-30 minutes or until just set. Don’t overcook it – it doesn’t like to be dry.
Let the tart cool, then top with fresh berries. Or if you are making this before berry season – use frozen berries instead of the cardboard ones that get shipped thousands of miles. I used about 2 cups of frozen mixed berries (thawed), 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp cornstarch which I cooked over medium heat in a small saucepan until thickened. When slightly cooled, I spread this over the tart. Serve with whipped cream.