Dull Leaf Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa) is one of my favourite local wild plants. Edible and medicinal from the tips of its evergreen holly-like leaves (eat them tender & new in spring), cheery yellow blossoms (lovely in salads) and antioxidant-rich blue berries to its beautiful orange-hued roots chockablock full of antibiotic and anti-fungal healing properties—not to mention a fabulous dye for textiles and Easter eggs! I’ll go into the medicine of Oregon grape in another post, but this hot July day is devoted to berries and just one of the wonderful ways to eat them—in a silky, bright, high summer tart!
It’s been a very dry summer here in the Pacific Northwest and as I write this the berries are struggling. It’s not looking good for many of the wild berries here and that’s terribly upsetting for all kinds of reasons. But today we’re walking on the sunny side of the street and talking about dessert. Thankfully, a non-native garden variety called Leatherleaf Oregon grape (Mahonia bealei) grows nearby and wherever folks have been watering, the berries are plentiful. I prefer the wild berries, but when life gives you Leatherleaf… well, you may as well make yourself a tart.
First, you have to “juice” your Oregon grape berries. You can do this up to a week before you plan to use the juice—i will keep covered in the fridge for at least that long.
Collect roughly 2 cups (400 grams) of berries, give them a wash in cold water and put them in a sauce pan with 100 ml of water. Bring the berries to a boil and allow them to simmer for a bit. Squish and stir the berries with a large spoon to extract as much juice as possible. Pour your berries through some cheesecloth or a jelly bag, give it a good squeeze and compost the seeds and bit of pulp left behind. You could avoid cooking the berries if you have a juicer or a press—this would be preferable. However, I do not, therefore…to the stovetop! With Oregon grape juice in hand you’re now ready to bake a tart.
This recipe is basically an adapted version of the Simply Delicious Ultimate Lemon Tart. I’ve substituted half the lemon juice for Oregon grape juice and added lavender to the shortcrust—that’s it. You could use your favourite lemon tart recipe, but I have to say Alida Ryder’s version is brilliant. You can very easily, substitute all the lemon for Oregon grape and it would be just as delicious. I decided to go halfers because I was craving the brightness of lemon. I plan to make a straight up Oregon grape tart soon and I’ll report back. I imagine the colour will be a deeper purple with an earthier undertone. Oh, and maybe I’ll try a bit of rosemary in the crust? Swoon. Okay, back to the recipe at hand:
Oregon Grape Lavender Tart
(recipe adapted from Simply Delicious)
Serves: 2x 28cm (11 inch) tarts – I used pie plates because apparently I do not own tart cases, even though I was pretty positive I did. Several hours of searching proved me wrong. Pie plates make for a more rustic presentation and it was little more difficult to serve, but totally doable. Note to self: BUY TART CASES.
- 250g cold excellent pasture raised butter, cubed
- 400g organic flour
- 100g organic icing sugar
- zest of 1 organic lemon
- 1 T dried or fresh lavender buds
- 2 farm fresh/organic egg yolks
- 3-4T ice water
- 500ml organic whipping cream
- 250g organic cane sugar
- 9 extra-large, organic/farm fresh eggs
- 125ml lemon juice (3-4 organic lemons)
- 125 ml Oregon grape juice
- zest of 2 organic lemons
To make the pastry, combine the butter, icing sugar, flour and lemon zest and lavender in the bowl of a food processor. Or alternatively you can cut or rub the butter and follow this excellent handmade shortcrust tutorial over at Azelia’s Kitchen.
Pulse until the mixture resembles rough bread crumbs.
Add the egg yolks and with the blender running, pour in the water, spoon by spoon until the mixture comes together in a ball.
Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and shape into 2 discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Roll the chilled pastry out on a floured surface and press into 2x 28cm (11 inch) tart cases.
Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes then remove the baking paper and baking beans and return the pastry back to the oven for another 10 minutes to finish baking.
Remove and set aside while you make the filling. Turn the oven down to 220°F.
For the filling, heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, do not allow to boil.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs.
When the cream is hot, slowly pour into the eggs, whilst continuously whisking.
Pour in the lemon juice, Oregon grape juice and lemon zest and mix well.
Strain the mixture into a large measuring cup or jug and carefully pour into the baked tart cases.
Bake the tart for 50 minutes until the edges are set and the centre is still slightly jiggly.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to cool completely.
Top with fresh seasonal berries, sprigs of mint and edible flowers. Or keep it real simple-like—serve the berries on the side and let the lovely pink tart filling steal the show.
Mahonia aquifolium: antibiotic, antiseptic, antiamoebocidic, anti-inflammatory (root); high in vitamin C and antioxidants, used by First Nations people as a laxative and food source. (berries)
Magical properties: protector, prosperity