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 ...
For the Pastry:
225g (8oz) plain flour, extra for dusting
2 tblsp icing sugar
100g (4oz) butter, diced and chilled
2 large egg yolks
2-3 tablespoons ice-cold water
For the Filling:
900g (2lb) Bramley cooking apples
100g (4oz) caster sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Good pinch of ground cloves
1 tblsp milk
For the Custard:
5 egg yolks
3 tblsp caster sugar
½ vanilla pod, split in half and seeds scraped out
300ml (½ pint) milk
100ml (3½ fl oz) cream
To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Using a round-bladed knife or the tips of your fingers, work in the butter and then mix in the egg yolks with enough of the ice-cold water, until the dough just comes together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5). Lightly dust the work surface with flour.
Divide the pastry into 2 portions, one slightly larger than the other, then roll out the larger piece until it's about 30cm (12in) in diameter. Use to line a 20cm (8in) pie dish or a 23cm (9in) flat plate, gently pressing into the corners. Trim the edges with a knife and reserve the excess for decorating. Place back in the fridge to chill while you prepare the apples.
Peel, core and slice the apples. Place in a large bowl with all but 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar. Add the cinnamon and cloves and mix together. Brush the edge of the pastry with a little milk and then pile the apples into the lined pie dish. Roll out the second piece of pastry into a circle slightly larger than the pie dish and use to cover the apples. Press the edges together to seal, then use a sharp knife to cut away any excess.
Crimp the edges of the tart with a round-bladed knife and, using your fingers as a guide, roll out the pastry scraps and cut into leaf shapes. Brush the shapes with milk and stick on top of the pie. Brush the entire top of the pastry with milk and sprinkle over the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes, then reduce the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4) and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.
Meanwhile, to make the custard, place the egg yolks in a large bowl with the sugar and vanilla seeds. Whisk with an electric mixer for a few minutes, until pale and thickened.
Place the milk and cream in a medium pan and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Gradually whisk the heated milk and cream into the egg yolk mixture until smooth, then pour back into the pan and place over a gentle heat. Cook gently for 6-8 minutes on a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon. Keep warm.
To serve, cut the warm apple tart into slices and arrange on warmed serving plates with some of the custard. Put the remainder into a jug on the table.