From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
225 g ready-rolled puff pastry (thawed if frozen)
750 g crisp eating apples (4–5 in total, such as egremont russet or granny smith)
grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
100 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
175 g golden caster sugar
vanilla ice cream, to serve
Yet another classic French recipe, Tarte Tatin always looks great and tastes fabulous and this one is made with ready-rolled puff pastry for ease. The best way to arrange the apple quarters is to lay them first around the edge of the tin, in a pinwheel fashion. Once a full circle is in place, then fill the space in the middle. It is very important that the apples are tightly packed or they may fall apart during cooking.
You will need a 23–25cm (9–10in) heavy-based, ovenproof frying pan, a Tarte Tatin mould or a shallow, solid cake tin. Unroll the pastry on a clean work surface and carefully cut out a circle, 2.5cm (1in) larger than the frying pan. Place the pastry on a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel, core and quarter the apples and toss them in half of the lemon juice. Mix the butter in a bowl with the cinnamon and vanilla seeds. Using a spatula, spread the flavoured butter evenly over the base of the frying pan. Sprinkle over the caster sugar in an even layer and then arrange the apple quarters, cut-side up, tightly together in the base of the pan. Cook over a medium–high heat for about 15 minutes or until the apples are caramelised, cooked through and light golden brown, being careful that they don't catch on the bottom. Remove from the heat, then sprinkle the apples with the lemon zest and the remaining lemon juice. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes, if time allows.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Lay the chilled pastry sheet over the top of the apples, tucking in the edges so that when the tart is turned out, the edges will create a rim that will hold in the caramel and apple juices. Bake for 25–30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown and the apples are completely tender but still holding their shape.
Leave the tart in the tin for a minute or two, then loosen the edges with a round-bladed knife if necessary and invert on to a flat plate. Rearrange any apples which have loosened, moving them back into place with a palette knife, and allow to cool for a few minutes. This enables all the juices to be reabsorbed and allows the caramel to set a little. Cut into slices and serve on slightly warmed plates with scoops of vanilla ice cream.