Jamie Ford’s lemon tart

There are only a few desserts I have come across which have caused me to wish, instantly, for the recipe. Girardet’s passionfruit souffle was one; Sirio Maccione’s creme brulee at New York’s Le Cirque was another; Gay Bilson’s Sussex Pond pudding — an old-fashioned pudding soaked with the flavour of lemon — from Sydney’s Berowra Waters; and Stephanie Alexander’s raspberry crumble at Stephanie’s.

Then came Jamie Ford’s lemon tart. Ford has been cooking terrific tarts in a tiny lunch bar in Melbourne for several years. If he was cooking in New York, he would have been a neighbourhood celebrity, but such is rarely the case in this country. People had told me about his lemon tart, but I had never bothered to try it — I had been disappointed too often by too many versions of lemon tart in too many places across the globe. But at last I tasted a slice, then another slice, then another, until there was no more.

It can stand with any of those desserts above. It is the only lemon tart I have eaten which does not leave a lingering taste of egg on the palate. This is a tart impregnated with lemon, as light as the lightest souffle. It is truly brilliant. I wish I’d thought of it.


300g plain flour, sifted

100g caster sugar

200g unsalted butter, in cubes

3 egg yolks


3 eggs (55gm)

½ cup caster sugar

juice of 1 large lemon, strained, zest removed and retained

⅓ cup almond meal

120g unsalted butter, melted so it is just warmer than tepid


Mix the flour and sugar together, and then the butter, rubbing through with your fingers until crumby and blended.


Mix in the egg yolks with a spatula until a pastry block is formed. Break up into the size you need, roll out flat and put straight into the shell, making sure the pastry is not too thick in the corners.


Put in the freezer for a few minutes.


Bake blind in a 200°C oven, the pastry covered with aluminium foil, until the edges brown.


Remove from the oven, take out the foil, and return until the pastry is well browned and looks like biscuit. Beware: if you don’t bake it enough the pastry will stick to the pan.


The filling sets best if the pastry shells are warm from the oven; but it will still set well if they’re not.


Cream the eggs with the sugar. This is best done in a Kenwood, with the whisk attachment, in order to get the maximum amount of air into the mixture. You cannot over- beat the mix.


Turn down the pace of the beater and add the lemon juice, bit by bit; add most of the zest, keeping a little aside.


Then add the almond meal. The beaters should be kept running. The end result will be very, very fluffy.


Take out a couple of scoops of the batter and whisk in the warm butter, bit by bit. Then whisk in the new butter-batter mix, slowly but surely. It is vital to maintain the airiness of the mixture.


Pour the mixture into the shells gently. You will think it is filled but then it will take some more. Leave it for a minute, then add some more. Fill almost to the edge. Sprinkle some zest on top.


Bake in a 180°C oven, on the bottom shelf, with an empty dish on the shelf on top. It can be tricky to bake. It will be done when it is set, not wobbly, and the lemon mixture will be brown on top. Test after 15 minutes. It will take about 20 minutes.


Remove and allow to cool, then refrigerate until quite cold. It is impossible to cut when warm.


Serve with icing sugar sifted over the top. The tart will keep easily for several days, if it survives sticky fingers.

WINE: I’d suggest a Rhine riesling that is not overly sweet. Look for something from Eden Valley with some richness coming from bottle age. Orlando, Krondorf and Yalumba all make superb styles — they will keep developing for ten years or more in the bottle.