Tarte Tatin


2 kg Cox's apples
2 lemons
125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
200g puff pastry

1. Squeeze the juice of two lemons into a basin, and add a couple of tablespoons of water. Peel and halve the apples, remove their cores and roll them in the lemon juice.

2. With the butter slightly soft, smear it generously over the base and sides of the cold pan. Sprinkle the sugar on top of the butter and give it a shake to ensure that it is evenly distributed. Drain any residual lemon juice from the apples and arrange them, on their sides, in concentric circles, embedding them in the butter/sugar mix and packing them in as tightly as you can. Then put them on the fiercest heat you can.

3. Keeping a wary eye on the apples, roll out the pastry into a disc about 2cm wider than the rim of the pan and let it rest on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a plate in the fridge. Watch the sides of the pan very closely. You are looking for a good, rich caramel colour to develop.

4. Move the pan around to ensure that the caramelisation is evenly distributed. It needs a certain amount of courage to keep going in order to achieve a rich, deep toffee colour all the way round. The process can take from 10-20 minutes. As soon as this happens, move the pan off the heat and allow it to cool a little.

5. After five minutes or so of cooling, drop the pastry on top of the pan - the edges should hang over the sides of the pan - and then place it in a pre-heated oven (gas mark 7/425F/22OC) to bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is nicely risen. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for about a minute.

6. The moment of truth has arrived; place an inverted plate, slightly bigger than the pan, over the top and, with one hand holding the plate firmly in place, take a grip of the handle. Then, with a turn of the wrist, flip the whole lot over so the pan is on top and the plate is on the bottom. Lower everything on to a flat surface, pause for a moment or two, and then lift up the pan. If the result is not perfect, shape the apples into place with a palette knife.

Chef's note: The choice of pan is most important. The handle must be ovenproof, and the sides must be as high as half a peeled apple. For six people, a pan with a diameter of about 20cm is plenty big enough.

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