The lychee season lasts for precisely six weeks here, when boxes of fresh fruit are brought in from the orchards near Sanjaan or Udwadia on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat or from further afield, places in Uttaranchal and from the foothills of the Himalayas where they grow more profusely.
When the latest IMBB theme was posted for Sugar High Friday #9 (hosted by Life in Flow) as "Tantalising Titillating Tempting Tarts!" it was not difficult to decide what the key ingredient was going to be, as bunches of lychees were a constant reminder, dangling as they are from the carts of fruit sellers. In the heat they are fragile and ripen in a day when left out, their skins turning from a deep rose pink with flecks of yellow to a dirty dark brown within hours.
The question was what to combine with the fruit, as the flavour is so delicate and easily overpowered. It had to have a spice, but nothing as strong as cloves, ginger or cinnamon would do. Toying with the idea of saffron, N and I sniffed the saffron threads and decided it would be too strong as well, though the colour would be nice. Finally hit upon it...cardamom!
While tarts and pastry are not 'Indian' food most people here love baked goods and bakeries , especially the Irani ones in Pune, which do a roaring business every day.
Shrewsbury biscuits from Kayani are famous throughout this part of the country, butterflies (otherwise known as pig's ears ) and jam tarts from City Bakery , Ragi bread, five grain bread , brown bread and cashew biscuits from Persian Bakery, plum cake and sweet buns from Royal Bakery and many more. Enough.This requires a blog of its own!
Most Indians love sweets and each region has it's own special varieties. One thing remains common...the use of milk solids in all of them. Barfi, milk cake... you name it, its got something lactose about it.
That's why this recipe has a particularly Indian feel to it, sweeter than most cheesecakes with a pate sucree base and elaichi (cardamom) which is often used in Indian sweetmeats.
So here is the recipe: For a nine inch tart.
Peel 1 kg of lychees, take out the seeds, and marinate the fruit in 4 tablespoons of brandy.
Make a Pate Sucree base of:
- 250 gms flour
- 125 gms caster sugar
- 150 gms butter
- 4 egg yolks
- A pinch of salt.
Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the caster sugar, the butter cut into tiny pieces and the egg yolks. Flick flour from side to side over the well containing egg and sugar. Incorporate the butter into the flour with finger tips and gather the whole together to form a ball as quickly as possible without handling dough too long. Refrigerate covered for an hour while preparing the filling.
Cook in a preheated oven at 180 C for 7 minutes till lightly brown. Remove and cool.
- 450 gms cottage cheese
- 8 brandied lychees
- (1/2 cup water)
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 200 gms fresh cream
- 3 small cardamoms peeled and ground into a fine powder.
- A stir of vanilla bean or a 1/4 tsp of vanilla essence
Blend the cottage cheese into a smooth paste. Add water as required to do this especially if it is shop bought Indian paneer ( a heavier hard cottage cheese) . If the cottage cheese is homemade you do not need to add much water. If you are using tinned lychees substitute the syrup for the water and cut out the caster sugar. Now add the lychees and blend till incorporated into the paste.
Add the sugar and egg yolks and whip again till smooth. Stir in the cream and ground cardamom. Give the batter a quick a stir with a vanilla bean pod (or add a drop of vanilla essence). Pour into the prepared tart base.
Bake in preheated oven at 150 C for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool, then refrigerate for a couple of hours or more. Place the brandied lychees on top of the tart along with any juices.
The tart turned out very well though I cheated and baked the first one very fast on a high heat setting, base and all for 25 minutes . The decision to bake it quickly was partly because we had limited illumination (candles) due to interminable local power cuts, and the kitchen must have been a good 40C. It was like being in a medieval sauna and cooking by candlelight is quite different from the romance of eating by candlelight.
Its a risky thing to do as the filling might have split and I would not suggest repeating that.
But the cardamom was a good choice...hope you like the result as much as we did.