Sunday, January 20, 2013
The sun has set, dinner done and dusted. As the shoreline breeze softens the air of a kitchen not mine, I throw some floor onto the counter and gently work the sweet crust pastry into a disc. Then I run the coffee machine, sit down with a French cookbook and think of home.
For some, it's a fixed place - where they come from, deeply rooted, clear as the blue sky. For others, it can be anywhere, wherever life brings them. Where new experiences are to be had, novel faces to familiarize with, new love to be found, rocky as the summer waves.
Having been away from my birthplace for over 6 years now, I've come to realize I've always been a wanderer. My best moments were those spent away from the one-floor link house containing years of bittersweet endeavors, some treasured, others slowly forgotten. As I moved to another country with less than ten boxes, it was without doubt that I don't have plans to return. The world is out there for me to explore.
I wake up to the unfailing laugh of the kookaburra, just as the morning sun floods a room not mine. While my hands methodically line the tart tin and whisk a smooth, silky lemon curd, I thought about finding the perfect place to call home. A spot coveted for the soul to settle, mind to dream and spirit to rest.
But by the time the flames of a blowtorch not mine brown those carefully sculpted, shiny meringue peaks, I know that for me at least, there will be no such place as a perfect home - for the heart is always wanting, tastebuds always evolving, head always finding fault. There's no point in weighing out the pros and cons when one is a wanderer, a global citizen, constantly yearning for adventure.
So as we added yet more storage to our current home, amassing possibly more than 50 boxes between us, I stop worrying how I will move them when the time comes. I can only look forward to where we will be going next, as our journey continues together to build our next home.
Lemon Meringue Tart (Tarte au Citron Meringuée)
Adapted barely from Manu Feildel's Manu's French Kitchen
Yields one 10-inch/25cm tart
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 4mm thick, then line a 10-inch/25cm fluted tart tin with a removable base. With a sharp knife, trim off extra pastry. Prick the pastry base all over with a fork, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- 2/3 quantity Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (recipe following)
- plain flour for dusting
- 4 egg whites
- 220 grams castor sugar
- 150 grams unsalted butter, chopped
- 6 eggs
- 180 grams icing sugar, sifted
- 300 milliliters freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
Preheat oven to 190°C. Place a piece of baking paper over the pastry, fill with pie weights, dried beans or rice. Place the tart tin on a baking sheet, bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until pastry is light golden. Remove weights, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C. Bake for another 10 minutes or till tart base is dry. Remove and set aside to cool.
Reduce the oven temperature to 130°C. To make the lemon curd filling, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Place the eggs and icing sugar in a large heatproof bowl, whisk until well combined. Add the lemon juice, then slowly whisk in the melted butter. Place the bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water, making sure bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and whisk for about 10 minutes or until curd has the consistency of thick cream. (Mine took about 8 minutes, be careful not to scramble the curd.)
Pour filling through a fine sieve into the cooled tart shell, bake for about 15 minutes or until just set. (I checked by shaking the tart tin a little, nothing should be wobbling.) Remove from oven to cool completely. At this point, if you wish to bake the meringue topping later, increase the oven temperature to 220°C. (I used a blowtorch.)
Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites till soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and whisk until thick and glossy. Spread meringue over the cooled tart, either by piping or using a spatula (I chose the easier option). Bake (3 to 4 minutes) or blowtorch the meringue till set and golden brown. (Try not to get carried away with the blowtorch, or you'll find yourself with a few burnt meringue tips.) Serve tart at room temperature.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
Yields enough to line a 30-cm tart
Note: I'm using the food processor method here to suit my hot and humid kitchen condition. Manu's recipe uses the stand mixer with the paddle attachment to cream the butter first.
Place the sugar, ground almond and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Process till fine and well combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add in the egg and cubes of cold butter. Pulse in short burst till mixture resembles find breadcrumbs. Pour onto a clean bench top and gather dough into a disc, kneading briefly.
- 90 grams icing sugar, sifted
- 30 grams ground almonds
- 250 grams plain flour, sifted
- 1 egg
- 125 grams cold unsalted butter, chopped
Wrap with cling film and refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before using. (If you don't have overnight to work with, chill the dough for at least 2 hours before using.)
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