Dinner party dash
Cooking time: 30 mins
DOES ANYONE THROW dinner parties these days? If they do, they must be a lot more modest in style, full of guests very grateful for the invite and keen to ensure they don’t overstay their welcome, or drink too much. All of which is probably good news for our livers and waistlines.
But if you are in the mood to feed a gang, then I’d be happy with the recipe below, purely for ease and flavour. The challenge was going to be finding a dessert that I could serve with some bought-in biscuits or biscotti and something I could prepare in the morning and cook in the evening. The idea for a simple lemon tart started to take shape, but I wanted to avoid the hassle of making pastry and blind baking anything. So I craftily came up with a cheesecake-style crumb base.
I crushed some hob nobs, melted some butter, ended up giving them a spin around the food processor (which was not what I was intending as this meant washing-up) and then packed them tightly into a tart tin with a removable base. I gave it a quick blast in the oven and then chilled it down in the freezer. Now this is where common sense and I went in diametric directions. You see, I knew the liquid lemon tart filling was going to leak out. I knew it. But I thought I could put a thin layer of the filling on to the base, blast it in the oven, and this would seal up the biscuit base. I also put the tart on a baking tin, so leakages would be caught. It was going quite well. The thin layer of tart mixture did seem to cook and I thought this thin sheet of filling was enough to seal the rest. Emboldened by the seaworthiness of the lemon tart filling, I poured the rest in. Gingerly, I pushed in the tray with its splashy filling and closed the oven door. Ha! A lemon tart with no pastry.
But, deep down, I knew it was a flawed idea. The filling leaked and leaked and leaked. It flowed out over the rim of the baking sheet, on to the oven floor where it hissed and spat scrambled lemony egg fumes at me for days, despite exhaustive cleaning. I made another batch of filling and instead of toying around with fiddly bits of base or pastry, I simply poured the filling into ramekins, baked them in a water bath (which is just a roasting tin, filled with hot water), and the end result was a “no drama” type of tasty dessert. Zingy, creamy and delicious served warm or cold, after a night in the fridge.
Serve with some very posh, thin ginger biscuits or some sort of biscotti.
6 lemons, juice and zest
300g caster sugar
Mix all the ingredients together and leave in a jug, covered in cling film till you’re ready to cook.
Preheat an oven to 150 degrees/gas mark two. Put the ramekins in a roasting tray and pour the mixture evenly between them. Put the roasting tray on to the shelf in the oven, and when safely positioned, pour enough hot (not boiling) water into the roasting tray, so that the water comes to about halfway up the ramekins.
The reason you do it in those stages is it’s easier to pour the water into the roasting tray once everything is in place. If you have to move a roasting tray half full of water over to your oven, the water will inevitably splash into the filled ramekins, and you’ll be left with watery, lemon soup.
Bake for about 25 minutes. They should seem a little wobbly in the centre, but reasonably firm. Carefully remove them from the roasting tin, cool slightly and serve while warm or else allow them to cool fully, refrigerate and serve cold the next day. A dollop of whipped, sweetened cream, with a splash of vanilla does not go astray.