It was written in a pink diary in the same rotund penmanship that scrawled a letter to ‘Young Talent Time’, offering my services if Dannii Minogue had a cold.
It housed things that made my nose wrinkle and mouth pucker, things I saw as hallmarks of adult taste. Mineral water with its alkaline bubbles was on it. So was blue cheese, black coffee, apple cores and wine. Rounding out the list were licorice and Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate.
As a child, fruit and night was a blight amidst the smooth bliss of melting milk chocolate. Why you would want to punctuate perfectly good cheap chocolate with the goo of dried fruit and the crunch of nuts which would occasionally get stuck in your molars was beyond me. Yet it was a chocolate often chosen by grown ups.
As the years have passed I’ll guzzle mineral water, occasionally spiked with pink wine in a spritz. Blue cheese is a happy companion for pear and fennel and long nights that will end in port. Coffee is an essential in the morning, though I still can’t inhale an entire apple core the way my Pa does. That’s a special skill.
And as for fruit and nut chocolate; it’s everything that is good. It’s Christmas in confectionery. It’s a trail mix made entirely of treats.
And it’s what you turn to when you’re packing up your flat and you discover a stash of chocolate your husband has squirrelled away in a cupboard (Claudia Kishi style).
In the past three days I’ve stumbled on gold medals of milk chocolate. There were some mysterious bars that came back from Austria and Switzerland, duty free. And there’s a luxurious hunk of dark cacao care of Willie still on the shelf.
Meanwhile I’ve run out of cardboard boxes and we’re only half way packed. Consume or perish is the new mantra.
Over in the pantry there’s a chaotic creche of fruits and nuts; dried pear, currants and sultanas, brazil nuts, pecans and almonds bumping into each other, relics from bulk festive purchases.
Out of a true spirit of grown up procrastination, this tart was born. There’s the luxury of chocolate ganache, made in a lazy fashion by melting together pouring cream and chocolate with a good pinch of salt for kick. There’s the blind baked pastry base; if you want to make a shortcrust base, or a chocolate olive oil pastry base like this, it would be perfect.
Or if you’re like me and keen to get rid of the emergency roll of frozen shortcrust in your freezer (shhh), then just blind bake that.
The nuts get toasted and tumbled into the cooling pastry base along with the fruit. Over the top goes the ganache, and perhaps some orange zest if you fancy a jaffa-style twirl on your flavour thesaurus. Into the fridge it goes for a few hours to set.
You could say it’s there so you’ve got something to vicariously munch while watching tarts episode of The Great British Bake Off . You could say it’s there to bribe your neighbours so you can hack into their wireless when yours gets shut off.
Or you could be honest and admit that it’s there because while you’re making chocolate fruit and nut tart, you’re not wrestling with gaff tape and cardboard.
I may be a grown up now, but there’s one thing I still haven’t developed a taste for;
See you on the other side.
Chocolate Fruit and Nut Tart
This is delightful with a splodge of creme fraiche on the side. The yogurty tang plays well against the richness of the dairy and cocoa and sweetness of the dried fruit. Feel free to substitute whatever dried fruits and nuts you have on hand. And if you want an even more adult result, use only good quality dark chocolate.
1 x 28 cm tart tin. Baking paper and baking beans, beads or coins. 1 pastry brush. 1 saucepan
200 grams shortcrust pastry
1 egg, beaten to glaze pastry
300 ml double/pouring cream
200 grams dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
200 grams milk chocolate, broken into small pieces
Pinch of sea salt flakes
125 grams dried fruit (mix of raisins, sultanas, dried cherries, dried pear – whatever you have to hand)
125 grams of nuts, toasted and cut into manageable chunks (I used a mix of flaked almonds, pecans, brazil nuts and walnuts)
Optional to serve: Extra nuts, orange zest and creme fraiche
Here’s how we roll
1) Preheat oven to 200C/392 F. Roll out the pastry to line the tart tin. Push the pastry up the edges and leave a little overhang. Also keep a small portion aside to patch any cracks that appear. Run the baking paper under water and scrunch up and shake dry (this helps it go into all the edges). Add the baking beans or coins and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the coins and paper, patch any holes and brush with egg wash. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through. Set aside.
2). Combine the cream and chocolate pieces and put over a medium-low heat. Stir until the chocolate has all melted into the cream. Season with salt and set aside (the salt may sound mad, but it helps give this a grown up twang).
3) Lay the fruit and nuts over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Pour over the chocolate topping.
4) Place in the fridge for 2-3 hours to set.
5) Serve with creme fraiche, a few extra nuts and some orange zest if you fancy.