Apricot tart with Beaumes de Venise

I really want you to try this recipe while there are still some good fresh apricots in the shops. It was given to me by the owners of Chateau Redortier which sits high on a hill facing Mont Ventoux.

(For more about this family and others in the Rhone valley please go to the introduction to the Rhone in Recipes from the French Wine Harvest)

FOR 6 - 8 PEOPLE

FOR THE SWEET SHORTCRUST PASTRY

(to fill a 25 cm (10 in) tart tin):

200g (7 oz) plain flour

1 small pinch of salt

about 15 g (1 oz) caster sugar

100 g (3½ oz) butter at room temperature

1 egg

a little water

FOR THE F1LLING:

750 g - 1 kg (1½ - 2 lb) ripe apricots

1 tablespoon sugar, optional

2 - 3 tablespoons Muscat Beaumes de Venise, or other desert wine of your choice

(keep the rest of the bottle to drink with the tart)

1 egg yolk, optional

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F, 200°C, with a heavy baking sheet on the middle shelf.

Sift the flour into a large bowl with the salt and sugar. Roughly cut up the butter, then with the tips of your fingers, speedily rub it into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Lightly beat the egg with about a teaspoon of cold water. Make a dip in the middle of the heap of flour, pour in the egg and mix until it is a supple and moist paste. Form this into a ball, cover and leave to rest for an hour.

Butter a 25 cm (10 in) removable-base, fluted tart tin. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line the tart tin with it. Chill for 1 hour.

Cover the pastry with a piece of buttered baking parchment, weighted with dried beans. Put into the preheated oven on the baking sheet for about 8 minutes. Remove the paper and beans. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and return to the oven for about 3 minutes more. It should be just starting to come away from the sides of the tin; do not let it get too brown.

Reduce the oven heat to gas mark 4, 350°F, 180°C.

Stone the fruit and slice thinly. If they are under-ripe, it might be worth poaching the slices for a few minutes in a little water and sugar but you must drain them carefully.

Arrange them in concentric circles in the pastry shell. In order to prevent the pastry becoming soggy, many people like to brush the base with egg yolk before doing this. Sprinkle the fruit with the tablespoon of sugar if using.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. This tart is nice served warm, but whether eaten warm or cold, sprinkle the fruit with the Muscat Beaumes de Venise just before serving. It should make a sensational finish to the meal.