For many people the word zabaglione conjures up images of the kind of trattoria where the host greets you with ejecting teeth and overpowering bonhomie: ‘Signore, where-a you been for so long? I see you put on a bitt-a weight, but don’t worry, on you it looks good.’ You sit at your table (inevitably ‘the best in the house’, just next to the kitchen service doors) and grimly contemplate the cold antipasto - with its obligatory leaden aubergine - with growing foreboding.
Forget all that Here the zabaglione is cooked into a tart of apple and prunes held in a sweet crisp crust I got the recipe from
Well ahead, prepare the prunes: make some tea, sweeten with a couple of teaspoons of sugar and soak the prunes in it as described in the Compote of Winter Fruits. Once plumped up, stone the prunes.
Part-cook the peeled and segmented apples with the butter and sugar in a frying pan as described in the Blackcurrant and Apple Crumble Tart, drizzling over the Calvados as you do.
Make the pastry shell as described, or use one you have already made and frozen • Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas6 • Line the tart shell with greaseproof paper, then with a double sheet of foil and fill with the dried beans to weight Press down firmly and return to the freezer until ready to bake.
Put the pastry shell on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes, when you should see the visible rim of pastry start to brown.
Remove from the oven and gingerly lift out the foil and beans. Then peel away the greaseproof paper.
Return the pastry to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove and leave to cool. Lower the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas4.
When the apples and prunes are cool, pack them into the pastry case, but do not overfill as you need to leave room for the custard topping - so no more than three-quarters of the way up.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a very low heat.
Make the zabaglione: in a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until stiff.
Then, continuing to beat pour in the hot melted butter in a thin stream, followed by the vanilla essence and Calvados.
As soon as this is mixed, transfer the custard to a jug and return the tart to the oven on the baking tray. Only then (when the tart is in place in the oven), carefully pour the custard over the apples and prunes, making sure none runs down the sides of the pastry. (It is easier to avoid slopping by doing this only when the tart is in the oven.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes, when the top will be golden brown but still slightly liquid.
© 1993 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.