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If you have been following my blog you will no doubt know that we moved to our house in Journiac, Dordogne just 5 weeks ago. While walking around the garden during the first week, we noticed, much to our great delight, a few fruit trees, a huge fig tree, a peach tree, a crab apple tree, several walnut trees, a chestnut and an unidentified tree with small green, round fruit about the size of a large marble. Not knowing what it was or even if it was edible, we pondered, browsed the internet and were even more confused. According to my research it could be a very tasty fruit or a highly toxic berry! Well, that was not much use at all – I still had no idea what it was. The next day, we spotted a deer eating the fruit from a broken branch that was very close to the ground. Well, she seemed to enjoy it and not look any the worse off. But, I was still not convinced. Last week, we invited our French neighbors for dinner and they wanted to walk around the grounds before aperitif so we set off on a stroll. As soon as we approached the unidentified, mysterious tree, my neighbor exclaimed how lucky we were to have such a beautiful Mirabelle tree. Well, as you can imagine, I immediately, (actually I waited until the following morning), began consulting all my recipe books and finally found a few recipes in my French books. As it turns out, a Mirabelle is a kind of tiny plum, hailing from the Lorraine region in France. It is round, yellowish with red flecks, sweet and delicious with a cherry like pit. It was a very short season, about one month, August. Luckily I found out what they were before they had all been eaten by the wildlife, like my peaches but that it another story. Mirabelles are a very common ingredient in tarts, clafoutis and above all, jams. They are delicious eaten simply by themselves as one would a cherry or a plum. You can replace them with either of the two as a matter of fact.

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As I had made a clafoutis a week before, I decided on trying a tart with some crème pâtissière – a sweet pastry cream.

Serves 6 to 8

450g/16oz pâte brisée/tart dough (you can use refrigerated short crust pastry) 300g/10oz crème pâtissière (recipe below)
50g/1/4 cup ground almonds
500g/1 lb mirabelles
50g/1/4 cup butter
2 Tablespoons Armagnac, Mirabelle eau de vie, rum or other liquor
Cut the mirabelles in two and discard the pit
Soak the fruit in the liquor
Butter a 23cm/9″ tart mold
Place the dough in the tart pan, pressing against the sides and bottom
Trim the excess dough
Prick the dough with a fork
Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
Line the dough with parchment paper and ceramic baking beads
Bake for 20 minutes, remove the paper and beads, return to the oven for 5 minutes Remove from oven and allow to cool
While the tart is blind baking start the creme (see below)
Mix the crème pâtissière with the ground almonds
Melt the butter in a large saute pan
Add the mirabelles and the alcohol and flambe for a minute or so
Add the creme to the partially cooked tart shell and cover it with the mirabelles Bake for about 40 minutes
Allow to cool completely, at least 2 hours before eating
Enjoy!

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Crème Pâtissière – makes enough for one tart

250ml/1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
50g/1/4 cup fine sugar
50g/1/4 cup flour
pinch of salt

Bring the milk and vanilla to the boil
In a medium saucepan whisk the egg, sugar, flour and salt
Add the milk very slowly while whisking continuously
On medium heat, bring the mixture to the boil while whisking  for about 1 to 2 minutes
Empty the contents into a bowl and allow to cool completely
To prevent a crust from forming you can either press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to create an airtight seal or you can sprinkle the top with sugar

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