Agen Prune and Almond Tart recipe from Russell Brown, Head Chef at Sienna Restaurant, Dorchester

Our series in which Russell Brown, Head Chef at Sienna Restaurant in Dorchester, provides simple seasonal recipes, and Jonathan Charles from The Dorset Wine Company offers suggestions of which wine to drink with them.

This recipe, and the accompanying wine, completes the three-course meal that they have given us over the past few months, but watch out for the January 2009 issue in which Russell and Jonathan will be bringing you a value-for-money dish to kick start the new year. 

The Recipe

It seems only a minute ago that Jonathan and I were discussing dishes and wines for spring! Maybe this is one downside of a seasonally-changing menu; the heightened awareness of time passing, or perhaps that's just me getting older!

The game season has started and winter fruits are in season, but the memories of summer do live on through a great European tradition of preserving. Salting, bottling, canning, drying and the making of preserves and chutneys give us store-cupboard ingredients to enhance autumn dishes. Salted anchovies, tinned tomatoes and home-made jam are just some examples, and it is the home-made jam and dried fruit which helped me out with a difficult wine match this month.


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The wine was certainly a surprise; I was expecting a big, sticky, rich monster, but this wine is exceptionally well-balanced. It does have rich, sweet fruit, particularly plums, but also spot-on balancing acidity. It would be fantastic to finish a meal just with the wine on its own, but I hope the recipe for Agen prune and almond tart does it justice!

Looking back at our previous dishes, I hope that this makes a menu that can be adapted according to the seasons. Try, for example, replacing the pea, broad bean and ricotta in the starter menu for wild mushroom or maybe roasted onion, and substitute the tomatoes in the main-course lasagne recipe for roasted butternut squash, and together with the prune tart, you have an autumn/winter menu.

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Agen Prune and Almond Tart (serves 6)

For the sweet pastry:

110gms unsalted butter 85gms caster sugar 2 egg yolks 2tbs cold water 170gms plain flour 55gms cornflour Pinch salt (Sift the last three ingredients together)

Method

Cream the butter and sugar. Combine the egg yolks and water, and gradually beat the egg mix into the butter. Fold in the flours and bring together, working as little as possible. Form into a 5cm-thick roll and chill.

For the almond paste:

75gms unsalted butter 75gms caster sugar 75gms whole egg 30gms self-raising flour 75gms ground almonds Bitter-almond extract

Method

Cream the butter and sugar. Gradually beat in the egg, adding the flour to stop the mix splitting. Finally, fold in the almonds and a few drops of the almond extract to taste.

For the tarts:

6 individual loose-bottomed tart tins, lined with the sweet pastry and blind-baked 6dsps plum conserve 1 quantity almond paste 15 Agen prunes, halved

Method

Spread an even layer of plum jam over the base of the pastry cases. Using a piping bag with a wide, plain nozzle, pipe in the almond paste to two-thirds fill the cases. Push five prune halves into each tart. Bake at 165C for 12-15 mins until the almond paste is risen and golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or clotted cream. A spiced red-wine syrup would be a nice addition; simply reduce some red wine with sugar and spices such as cinnamon, star anise and vanilla, until the liquid is syrupy.

The Wine

This time we concentrate on desserts and what to drink them with. There is an incredible array of styles available and whilst the more classic Sauternes, Monbazillac and Beaumes de Venise are widely available in supermarkets and high-street chains, if you are seeking a more eclectic selection, it is worth popping in to your local independent wine merchant to see what they have on offer.

Like all wines, a dessert wine should possess a balance of fruit and acidity, and also should not be too cloying. Our featured wine in this article is special for many reasons, not least because it is made from the red grape variety Syrah (Shiraz); each grape is individually hand picked from bunches that have been affected by Botrytis, a naturally occurring form of rot that shrivels grapes and concentrates the sugars and acidity, allowing for the production of an ultra-concentrated nectar.

The 2006 Trockenbeerenauslese Syrah, Steindorfer, to give it its full name, is a revelation on many levels from its beautifully elegant, copper-tinged colour, its amazingly delicate and well-balanced palate through to the light, refreshing finish that, whilst sweet, is clean and fresh due to that all important acidity.

Making dessert wines out of red grapes is not confined to 'mad scientist'-style winemakers in Austria. The French make the popular styles of Banyuls and Maury, which tend to be fuller bodied and a good match for chocolate-based desserts. Germany produces jaw-droppingly good sweet wines from the Riesling grape, which can be enjoyed on their own or with fruit-based desserts.

Sweet wines are not always confined to the end of a meal; Sauternes and foie gras is a very classic match.

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