currantpie

One of the very first meals I shared with Richard in Ireland occurred at the ridiculously charming Mustard Seed. I’ll never forget driving up the hill that evening to the stately restaurant and inn, which he explained, “was housed in a former 19th century convent.”  I had been prepared to enjoy a romantic dinner for two, but I suddenly began to worry: could my dashing and devout Irish farmer be shipping me off to a nunnery for a bit of parochial polishing up?

Deep breath.

We parked the car and found ourselves being graciously greeted at the grand entrance door by a handsome and attentive maître d’ whom swiftly handed us each a crisp and cordial glass of bubbles.

Exhale. 

After taking our coats we were shown into a wonderfully wabi sabi yet classically drawn sitting room oozing with warmth and tartan and books and pictures and bottles of scotch filled with smoke and history. We lingered on the davenport and sipped our bubbly glasses dry while giddily holding hands in front of a roaring fireplace.

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After just the right amount of time, we were summoned to a beautiful dining room all dressed in blue where we feasted on pan fried Kerry scallops, nasturtium jelly, wild mushrooms, freshly-caught roasted trout, a tender fillet of local beef and puddings galore which we washed down with chalices of wine and spirits and tea and coffee until the early hours of the morning.

Unforgettable.

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That night, there was no way of knowing that years later I would move and marry and become simmered in the spectacular world of Irish food, embracing traditional skills and championing artisan producers as I have done.  Perhaps involuntarily that meal at the Mustard Seed planted this special seed. A nice notion to ponder.

Last month, I paid a visit to the Mustard Seed to collect a gift certificate just as they were expecting a large group of local guests. The ebullient proprietor, Dan Mullane, was in the front of the house preparing glasses of fresh black currant cordial with soda + sprigs of lemon verbena for the impending arrivals. When he handed me an amethyst-coloured glass of the refreshment I more than happily obliged.

The flavour was out of this world.

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I am ashamed to admit that black currant offerings were a bit lost on me when I first came here. I tended to associate black currant with the flavour of bittersweet grapes, as the black currant juices that line supermarket shelves here resembled a certain deep purple grape juice that I never fancied in America.

Ignoramus.

That all changed once I had a taste of my mother-in-law’s homemade, fresh-picked black currant jam. To this day, both Peggy’s homegrown black currant and gooseberry jams are the conserves that I cherish most. They are also two jams that I never had in my life before moving to Ireland {and for the record, two more reasons to make a girl never leave Ireland.}

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Peggy’s black currant jam changed my mind about black currants. And, Dan’s black currant lemon verbena cordial at the Mustard Seed took my love for this little berry one step further. {and yes, I am reading your mind, indeed this clever concoction pairs wonderfully with a finger of gin and a splash of tonic, I know this from obligatory experimentation}

I contemplated: if fresh black currants were so damn good in jams and drinks, wouldn’t they be great in a tart? Because the lemon verbena matched so beautifully in the cordial, I decided experiment with a vanilla bean + lemon verbena glaze over fresh picked black currants. The result was a splendidly tangy (but not tart) velvety vanilla, bursting berry flavour with a cornmeal crust that comfortably cradles its filling.

currantpie

See what you think!

Black Currant Lemon-Vanilla Verbena Glazed Tart with Cornmeal Crust
INGREDIENTS
CRUST
300g/2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
30g/1/4 cup corn (maize)meal (medium ground)
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
113g/1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
55g/1/4 cup nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening frozen, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

GLAZE
2 teacups (or handfuls) washed fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 vanilla pod
450g/2 cups sugar
120ml/1/2 cup water

FILLING
750g/5 cups fresh black currants (about 27 ounces)
175ml/3/4 cup lemon verbena glaze
120g/1/2 cup caster sugar
30g/1/4 cup cornstarch
Milk (for brushing)
1 1/2 tablespoon raw sugar

METHOD
FOR CRUST
1. Blend flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in processor.
2. Add butter and shortening; blitz on and off until mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add 4 tablespoons ice water and blend just until moist clumps begin to form
4. Gather dough into ball.
5. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk.
6. Wrap disks separately in plastic and chill at least 1 hour.

FOR GLAZE
Put all ingredients into saucepan and slowly heat just until sugar dissolves and creates a thick syrup. Remove from heat and let cool and steep for 2 hours (or longer if you can, the longer you steep the more pronounced the flavour) Strain leaves and pod. Reserve syrup for glaze.

FOR FILLING
1. Combine black currants, lemon verbena glaze, sugar, cornstarch in large bowl; toss to blend.
2. Let stand at room temperature until juices begin to form, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 200c/400ºF.
4. Place rimmed baking sheet in bottom of oven.
5. Roll out 1 dough disk between 2 sheets of generously floured parchment paper to 12-inch round.
6. Peel off top parchment sheet; invert dough into 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish.
7. Carefully peel off second parchment sheet.
8. Gently press dough into pie dish, pressing any cracks together as needed to seal and leaving dough overhang.
9. Spoon filling into piecrust.
10. Roll out second dough disk between 2 sheets of generously floured parchment paper to 12-inch round.
11. Peel off top parchment sheet. Carefully and evenly invert dough atop filling.
12. Peel off second parchment sheet.
13. Trim overhang of both crusts to 1 inch.
14. Fold overhang under and press to seal.
15. Crimp edges.
16. Cut five 2-inch-long slits in top crust of pie to allow steam to escape during baking.
17. Lightly brush top crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle with raw sugar.
18. Bake tart 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 175c/350ºF and continue baking until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling thickly through slits, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
19. Cool pie completely on rack.
20. Serve with scoops of ice cream, custard, or whipped cream.

The lucky recipient of Nessa Robin’s, Apron Strings, randomly picked out of an old milk pail by our little farmer, is ORLA O’BRIEN. Congratulations Orla! Please email your address to me at imenmcdonnell@gmail.com.

Slan Abhaile,

Imen

Photos and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. Black currants for the tart were graciously gifted to us by the Mustard Seed, and also picked from our own orchard at the farm. 

 

 

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18 Responses to “Black Currant Lemon-Vanilla Verbena Tart”

  1. Kellbelle says:

    This tart looks magnificent. Yum! Will definitely give this recipe a go 🙂
    x

  2. A great post! I adore blackcurrant jam and sadly didn’t make any this year as I didn’t come across enough fruit. Also, blackcurrant ice cream with its unbelievable colour…. Your tart looks delicious!

  3. Kellebelle says:

    That tart looks absolutely devine! Would love to try making it!
    Kellebelle
    http://www.blinkandyoullmiss.com

  4. I love stories like this that start deliciously and end even more so! What a nice memory and connection to the blessed mustard seed. Xx.

  5. […] Black Currant Lemon-Vanilla Verbena Tart […]

  6. Spatz says:

    What a wonderful post, I so enjoyed reading it!
    And I’m just done saving the recipe – I’ll be sure to try it soon. Thank you for sharing with us!

  7. Krista says:

    Dear Imen, I’m so glad that you get to remember your mother-in-law through her gorgeous preserves that are so wonderfully Irish. 🙂 I planted a red currant bush last year and thought it had died until the other day it sprouted leaves!! HOORAY! I don’t know if it will handle the heat of Australia, but I sure hope it does so I can make jelly and cordial with it. 🙂 I loved reading about your wonderful memories with your guy at The Mustard Seed. 🙂

  8. Rebekah says:

    I’m also falling in love with black currant. This tart looks AMAZING to try out.

    • imen says:

      I just read that you can use the leaves in preserves and pickling as well. Black currant is multipurpose! Thanks for your comment Rebekah.

  9. Anne Mc Donagh says:

    Hi Imen,
    I am heartily sorry to hear the sad news about your mother-in-law. Condolemces to you and your family.
    I am Irish, living in the US and the mention of gooseberry jam makes me homesick. Any chance you will post Peggy’s recipe for Gooseberry Jam ?
    Love your website.

  10. Carly says:

    I had my own currant moment (but with the red ones) when I moved to Germany. These black ones look lovely and if I can track them down here I will make this tart!

  11. Carolanne says:

    Oh wow, I love the idea of the combination of Lemon Verbena and Blackcurrants. What a scrummy looking tart. Will have to hunt some down here in SA!

  12. Beth says:

    Picking currents (in my case red and in the Netherlands) was one of the few happy memories I have from my younger years. I just remember listening to Belle & Sebastian…picking…and wishing life could always be countrysides & currents. And now I know it largely can! Your story, as much as I adore my own life, still makes me jealous! And the use of verbena is inspired.

    • imen says:

      What a lovely memory……can totally picture & hear it. Thanks also for your comment on Peggy….only you can be inspiring even in words of condolences Beth. I never thought of this loss in that way, so thank you. I think we should swap lives for half the year. Imen x

  13. S says:

    Imen, I love the story you tell…how your tastes have changed over the years – bless! This looks spectacular. I love black currants (British secondary school days, lots of Ribena). Wish we could sit together and share a few slices. x s

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