Lemon, Lavender and Primrose Tart

Following on from my previous post in which I pondered how to use primroses in the kitchen, here’s the result: Lemon, Lavender and Primrose Tart. Yes, you heard right. Lavender, even in March. How? Well, some of you may recall, back in August of last year, I made Lavender Sugar by adding lavender to a jar of sugar so that in the winter months I could add a floral fragrance to cakes and bakes. I then forgot all about it – until now! The lavender sugar was added to a simple lemon tart which I then topped with some crystallised primroses from the garden to create a fabulously floral confection. It’s a veritable posy of a pudding – perfect for Easter!

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LEMON, LAVENDER AND PRIMROSE TART

For the pastry

250g plain flour
70g icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks

For the filling

5 eggs
120g lavender sugar
150ml double cream
Juice of 2-3 lemons (approx. 100ml)
2 tbsp lemon zest

For the decoration

A few primrose flowers
1 egg white (use the white left over from the yolks used in the pastry)
Handful of caster sugar

Method

Make the pastry by mixing together the flour and the icing sugar in a bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub together until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg yolks and mix together, adding a drop of water if the mixture is too dry. Roll into a ball, cover in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30 mins.

Crystallised Primroses

While the pastry is chilling, make the crystallised flowers. Whisk the egg white in a bowl until frothy and carefully paint the egg white onto both sides of the flowers with a paintbrush. Lay the flowers on a piece of baking parchment and sprinkle with sugar (both sides) until evenly covered. Allow to dry.

Roll out the pastry onto a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a £1 coin. Lift into a 23cm flan tin. Press down gently and trim off any excess pastry. Prick the base with a fork and pop back in the fridge for another 30 mins.

Meanwhile, make the tart filling by beating together the eggs, lavender sugar, cream and lemon juice. Sieve the mixture and then stir in the lemon zest.

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan. Line the tart with foil/baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 10 mins. Discard the beans and bake for a further 20 minutes, uncovered.

Once the pastry is browned, remove from oven and carefully pour in the lemon mixture. Cook for a further 30-35 minutes.

Leave to cool before decorating with the crystallised flowers.

(Click here for a print-friendly version.)

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The Sound of Spring

Across the land from parks to allotments, gardens to woodlands, there’s a sound gaining volume; a fanfare from the proud trumpets of  daffodils piercing through the soil, heralding spring. 2

I’m sure winter still has a sting in her tail, she’s not done with us yet. But you can’t help but notice the toneless landscapes are finally changing as pockets of Narcissus explode on the scene.

This welcome sight tells me we’re at the gates of a new gardening season with so much hope and excitement ahead of us. It’s a journey we all look forward to. Gardening blogs are crammed with tales of sowing, Instagram is brimming with colour and Twitter is almost at breaking point, enticing us to visit all things RHS-related.

So not to be left out in the cold, I spent my weekend flitting between garden and allotment, getting as much done as I could, while poor Agent Soph was left wondering what had happened to her missing husband.

First job, to pot up my pepper, chilli and aubergine seedlings. They have come on in leaps and bounds, and with their true leaves gaining size they were ready to trade up and move into something a little larger. 1 Collage

I also sowed some spring onions. I grew some last year and was delighted with the results. So this year, I’ve opted for White Lisbon and a red variety called Furio. They’re easy to grow, need little looking after and the taste is wonderful.

Not yet done with the compost, I decided to plant a bag of shallots. They were a freebie from a gardening website, so I was keen to get these growing. However, after last year’s ‘Onion-maggeddon’, where I lost my entire crop of onions to the dreaded onion fly, I planted these in tubs and have left them to grow in the polytunnel. I’m going to try to grow onions on the plot again this year, but this time I’m going to start them off in modules, get a good root system going and when they have some growth and the ground is warmer, I’ll plant them outside.. and firmly cross my fingers.2 Collage

Back from the allotment and straight into the garden, I pruned a couple of my clematis, gave them a feed and mulched them. Then the final job was to pot up my Nerine bulbs, (a lovely christmas gift from Soph’s parents.) I’ve never grown these before, and as an autumn flower they should really add some wonderful pink and white tones to the garden later this year.

But then it was onto the last and most important task of the day.. 1

… some cut flowers for my good lady wife, and home.

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That Schwarzenegger Knows His Apples

‘Have you brought any fruits or vegetables onto the planet?’

‘Two weeks’

‘Excuse me?’

’Two weeks?.. Er…. two weeks…twooo weeeks’

Arnie’s unforgettable delivery in the sci-fi classic Total Recall couldn’t have summed up my repeating internal dialogue any better. Let me explain why.

As you may (total) recall in my post First Day at School back in September, I announced that after playing truant for nearly 20 years, I was going back to school to study the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance.  Well, several months on and I’m about to sit the first of my exams – in just under two weeks.

As someone who never got to grips with the academic side of life when I was a wee whippersnapper, I went into this course with the attitude that I wanted to learn and enjoy the experience of learning.  If I passed the exams then that would be an added bonus but I wouldn’t blinker myself into solely chasing the grade and missing the adventure along the way. Books

Since September, I’ve never been far from my notebooks, swatting up whenever a free five minutes has presented itself.  It’s not because I want to be top of the class, it’s just that there’s so much to get through in such a short period of time.  From the start our lecturer warned us that it would be intense, so to help us get to grips with Latin, pruning and all things garden-related, he has been setting us tests at the start of most classes.  And each week, I find myself getting nervous.  Looking around the classroom, I take comfort in the ashen faces of the other forty-something students hiding behind their text books.  ‘This isn’t so bad’, I think to myself, ‘we’re all in it together’. Well, apart from the know-it-all who sits at the back of the classroom with all the self-satisfaction of a proud peacock, spouting the entire encyclopaedia of horticulture whenever the lecturer is seeking answers and we’re all avoiding his gaze: ‘Please don’t ask me.  Ask the peacock, ask the peacock!’

Yet despite all my worries, I’m really enjoying the course.  Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I think that perhaps with all my work and other commitments, maybe I can afford to pull a sickie from class once in a while. But to date it hasn’t happened, the little gardener growing inside me looks forward to his weekly classes and is quick to slap me into shape.

As the years creep by and my youth sinks into the horizon, I realise it becomes easier to close doors rather than open them and embrace the new challenges behind them.  So I’m determined to open every door I pass and peer in. Once I’ve had a good nose around, then I’ll decide whether it’s worth sticking around or to move onto the next door.

So to finish as I started, I’ll leave the final words to Arnie. Who has never looked so good in a dress. Over to you big guy!

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