My grandmother loved taking me on long garden walks in the beautiful countryside of Périgord. She always had a pair of old-fashioned garden scissors ready to cut off a few of her favorite herbs and flowers. She loved vervain, and religiously had a cup of infused leaves every night before going to sleep – ‘La petite tisane du soir’ she would say. She also mixed them to sliced summer peaches with a dash of sugar – she would leave the peaches to marinate in a covered bowl all day in the fridge. In Roman times, vervain was associated with the god Venus, as it had magical properties to revive lost love. This marvelous herb is such a divine match with summer peaches, so I was inspired to make a peach tart with a vervain infused custard, reminding me of sweet childhood days with my grandmother. The pastry dough is just as she used to do it, with ground almonds – extra delicious and crumbly. The combination of the citrus vervain taste with cream and peaches topped with a large cloud of fruit fool will make your summer brighter than ever.
For the pastry:
250 g/2 cups plain flour
150 g/ 2/3 cups butter (softened at room temperature)
30 g/ ¼ cup caster sugar
60 g icing/ ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
80 g/ ½ cup ground almonds
1 pinch of salt
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture forms a homogenous dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Take out 30 minutes before rolling out.
For the vervain-infused custard base:
400 ml/ 1 and a half cup milk
20 vervain leaves (fresh or dried – alternatively you can use 4 vervain teabags)
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp plain flour or cornstarch
50 g/ ¼ cup white sugar
In a saucepan, boil the milk and throw in the vervain leaves (or teabags). Take off the heat and let the vervain infuse for 10-15 minutes. In a bowl, mix the flour (or cornstarch), egg yolks and sugar together. Blend in the vervain-infused milk slowly and re-heat (on a low heat) until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. Should the mixture have lumps, you can pass it though a sieve. Set aside to cool.
For the tart:
3 large peaches, sliced (in half moon shapes)
For the fruit fool cream topping:
200 ml/1 cup whipping cream
1 plum, 1 peach, 1 nectarine (or any summer fruit you wish – they should be on the riper side)
50 g/ ¼ cup caster sugar
Chop fruits to small bits. Set aside. Whip cream until stiff, adding caster sugar halfway. Fold in the chopped fruits.
A few leaves of fresh vervain
On a floured parchment covered surface, roll out the dough to fit your tart pan. Butter the tart pan, line with the pastry dough, and cut out excess overhang dough approx. ¼ inch/ 1 cm off the rim. Fold in the excess dough to make a double thick rim. Pierce dough with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes (this tip will prevent the dough from shrinking when you bake it). When ready, line the inside with parchment, fill with dried beans (I use my son’s marbles), and blind bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 F/ 180° C.
Leave to rest for 10 minutes. Fill the tart base with the vervain infused custard, place the sliced peaches on top in a circular shape, pushing them in slightly, sprinkle with caster sugar and bake again for 15-20 minutes at 350 F/ 180° C. The peaches might get watery when you take out the tart from the oven – no worries, they will set nicely once the tart has cooled down. Leave to cool completely, serve with fruit fool on top of the tart, or on the side. Sprinkle with a few fresh vervain leaves.