Saturday, 19 March 2011

Frockmaking and mustard carrot-and-leek tart

So it was Labour Day, and the Quiltmaker and the Tall Designer and I had no work to go to. The Quiltmaker decided to make herself a frock, and the Tall Designer decided to make his girlfriend a frock. On the very same day.

As neither of them had made a frock before, they convened for mutual support at the Quiltmaker’s charming home – it has a cellar and everything – and (as I have popped my frock-making cherry) they invited me along in case trouble was run into, and also because I’m the proud owner of an eBay-won Babylock that beats zigzagging seams by a million miles as long as you don’t get a chunk of the garment caught in its cruel blade.

In keeping with the wholesomeness of it all, the question had been raised of how best to sustain us through the day. The occasion was risen to superbly, with the Quiltmaker’s sylvanberry and chocolate-chip mini-muffins and the TD’s huge wedge of brie with seedy crackers. I chipped in Gérard’s Mustard Tart, from p54 of Dorie Greenspan’s mighty Around My French Table.

I have made this tart before, both versions – the traditional Dijon tomato version is a winner too. It has a great tart crust, which can easily be made in double quantity and a flattened disc of its dough clingwrapped and frozen for another time (such as this day turned out to be), and for all sorts of other tarts for that matter. And it’s not every day you get to celebrate mustard as a chief ingredient. It’s just right – not overpowering, but definitely speaking up for itself.

The first time I made this version, following the instruction to prepare the carrot and leek in batons to radiate prettily from the centre caused the more resilient strips of leek to mess up the slicing a bit, and they wouldn’t quite be bitten off either, coming away inelegantly all in one piece. This time I cut the leeks in inch-long lengths, leaving the carrots to play the part of the sunrays.

I also increased the filling quantity quite a lot to fill more of the tart shell – I made it 5 eggs rather than 3, and 3 bulging tablespoons each of Dijon and wholegrain à l’ancienne mustard rather than 2 proper levelled ones. It’s a very forgiving recipe; I had only a scant few tablespoons of leftover whipping cream rather than the called-for 6 of double cream or crème fraiche – which I would have otherwise more-or-less doubled, given other increases – but no harm done.

On the frockmaking front, no trouble of note was run into and by dinnertime both frocks were at trying-on stage, which was extremely good going on both their parts. Neither pattern was the most straightforward, especially the Quiltmaker’s Amy Butler Lotus Dress, but she was undaunted by the puffed cap sleeves and took up the gathering with relish, and the challenge paid off with possibly the cutest frock known to humankind. The TD’s elegant frock with its neckline tucks and darts and shaped shoulder straps was well served by his precision, and its handstitched hem was a delight to behold; unfortunately his GF was overseas and couldn’t try it on, but we felt confident in the complex calculations of her measurements gleaned over Skype with the aid of sheets of folded A4 paper.

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