Before home-grown strawberries disappear totally from the shops, a re-run of what I reckon is the ultimate strawberry tart recipe from Orlando Murrin's irresistible book, A Table in the Tarn and which he used to serve at his French guest house Le Manoir de Raynaudes.
Orlando says "This pastry is so good you can eat it like a biscuit. Everyone imagines it must have a host of ingredients to give its supreme nutty crunch, but not so. The secret is in the Demerara sugar and the handling of the pastry. You really do need to need to follow the instructions to the letter. The cook who taught me this pastry, an Austrian, said she had given the recipe to a couple of my neighbours, without telling them the secret of how to handle it. How fortunate she took a shine to me!"
For the pastry
110g self-raising flour
25g plain flour
110g unsalted butter
2 tbsp Demerara sugar
6–10 tbsp mascarpone, cool but not straight from the fridge
icing sugar, to taste
few drops of vanilla extract
250g strawberries, not too big, halved
You will also need a marble slab or large flat board
If serving for dinner, make the pastry in the morning or afternoon. Mix the flours with a good pinch of salt and rub in the butter (can be done in the processor). Mix in the sugar until the mixture comes together into a crumbly ball. Shape into a squared-off sausage and refrigerate for about an hour until just firm.
Cut the pastry into 6 chunks and on a lightly floured surface roll out each to a thin circle about 10cm in diameter. For a professional finish use a cutter to perfect the circle. Transfer to an ungreased rimless baking sheet using a spatula or palette knife and bake at 180°C (170°C fan) for 10–15 minutes until lightly golden (neither pale nor actually browned) and just firm when you touch it.
Remove from oven, count to ten and with extreme care slide a palette knife under one of the pastry discs. Tilting the tray, slide-push the pastry disc on to the marble slab. Continue with the other discs. Nudge the discs lightly while cooling a couple of times so they do not stick to the slab or board. Leave there, covered with clingfilm, till ready to serve.
Have ready 6 serving plates. Beat the mascarpone to soften, sifting in a little icing sugar and vanilla to taste. It needs to be spreadable: too warm and it will be in danger of curdling when you beat it; too cold and it will tear the pastry when you spread it. Spread on to the pastry discs, right to the edge, then top with a tight layer of halved strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar.
You can dress up this dish further by using a lemon cream instead of mascarpone. Make some lemon curd by bringing to the boil 180g sugar, the juice of 2 lemons, 75g unsalted butter and 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest, and then whisking into 3 large beaten eggs. Return to pan and cook gently for about 5 minutes, till thickened and 71°C. This keeps for a week in the fridge. For this recipe, fold about 100ml of lemon curd into 100ml whipped cream and spread on the tartlets before adding strawberries.
Recommended wine match: I'd suggest a Gaillac doux from the area where Orlando was living but you could also drink a dessert wine from Juranon or Pacherenc-du-Vic-Bilh or a sweet, sparkling Clairette de Die from the Rhône.