Friday, 16 April 2010

BANANA TARTE TATIN


This French upside-down tart is one of those dead-easy puddings that is so simple to make, and yet so delicious, you wish you had discovered it years ago. It is adapted from a traditional tarte tatin (usually made with apples), and you can use the same method with other fruit: I like to make it with pears, but figs, and even pineapple slices (with glace cherries for for a really 1970s retro feel), would work well too. I have also come across a savoury version made with onions or leeks.

I am very fond of bananas and things that taste of banana, including those lurid yellow banana shaped fondants that are temple-achingly sweet and doubtless full of horrible chemicals and synthetic banana flavourings. They are often sold in sweet shops alongside 'shrimps', equally lurid and chemical-laden - also a favourite of mine!

The first time I served this at a dinner party, some guests were wary of the cooked bananas, while other, more adventurous diners, declared the pudding a great success. It has become a regular on my menus, mainly because it is so easy to make. I serve it with very cold creme fraiche, which cuts into the caramelly sweetness, or good quality vanilla ice-cream (not that horrible yellow stuff which is paraded as "Cornish" or "Devon" ice-cream). Or, if feeling really naughty, clotted cream.....

A word of caution: part of the process of making this pudding requires you to heat sugar. On now account turn your back on the sugar when heating it. Sugar has an annoying habit of suddenly turning from a nice, burnished caramel into a black, sticky mess which adheres to the cooking pan, never to be removed. You have been warned!

A proper tatin tin is useful for this recipe, but not essential. I have a rather elegant copper and tin one. Basically, you need a pan that can be heated on the hob and then put in the oven. A shallow Le Creuset type dish would work well.

Banana Tarte Tatin

250g good-quality bought puff pastry, rolled out to slightly larger than the tin size
4 slightly under-ripe bananas, sliced. Sprinkle with lemon juice to stop them going brown
About 4 tbsps sugar (granulated or caster is fine)
Approx 25g, very cold unsalted butter, cubed

Oven 200C

Put the sugar in the tatin pan and set it on the hob over a high heat. Make sure the sugar is evenly distributed over the base of the pan. The sugar will start to melt and caramelise from the edges first. Swirl it around to ensure all the sugar cooks at roughly the same time. It will turn a lovely burnished copper colour. Remember: DO NOT TURN AWAY FROM IT! At this point, turn off the heat and dot the caramel with cold butter. It will froth up a little. Then place the banana slices on the caramel, and top with the pastry, tucking the edges down a little around the sides of the pan. Place in the oven and cook for about 20-25 mins or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. Remove from the oven and while the tarte is still warm, put a place over the top of the pan and turn it upside down to turn out the tarte. Set aside to cool. It is best served at room temperature.

With the leftover scraps of pastry, I sometimes make little puff-pastry cheese palmiers or other nibbly things to have with an aperitif before dinner.

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