Macadamia Mound Tart
When it comes to food, more isn’t always better.
Think of a bucket of fried chicken. In principle, it’s abundant and bountiful and saliva-inducing in the way only a fried chicken bucket can be, but dig in, and you’ll find every piece below the top few soggy and sweaty from the steam trapped between the layers. Or picture a buffet line, with hordes of people piling disparate dishes on their plates, with no regard for flavour combination or textural balance. (Crispy chicken tenders and prawn tempura wouldn’t do well next to gravy-heavy beef stew, for instance.) Or watch the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, with mounds of phallic hot dogs and pale, starchy buns set on a table, just waiting for Joey Chestnut and Kobayashi to destroy them.
So you see, abundance, while theoretically desirable, isn’t always delightful. More than that, sometimes, it even elicits feelings of disgust.
The worst offender of this has to be the continental breakfast. Here’s the typical situation I get into: I usually start off well, giddy with excitement. I mean, there are towering trays of bacon and hash browns, rotary dispensers with 6 different kinds of cereals, plates of cold cut salami and cheeses, a conveyor toaster that is always so much fun to play with, and the compulsory egg station making omelettes and sunny-side ups as fresh as you can get them. What’s not to like?
But then I do my rounds, and the pristine picture starts to fall apart. The bacon and hash browns are limp and soggy, squished from the weight of the stack. The cornflakes and cocoa pops taste nothing like the ones you’re used to, because they come from a nameless brand. The conveyor toaster is set too low so it doesn’t brown your toast enough, but when you put it in for a second pass it becomes burnt beyond belief. And the egg station is manned by that one chef that clearly doesn’t want to be there, plus he keeps getting your order wrong. (I said everything EXCEPT peppers, damnit.)
But sometimes, just sometimes, more can be better.
And high on the mountaintop of plenty, sitting on the Iron Throne of Abundance, is Ottolenghi. Walk past any Ottolenghi restaurant in London, and you’ll find piles of pastries and mounds of maftoul and moghrabieh, trays of tabboulehs reflecting the rays of spring sun shining through the windows, and an island filled with bundt cakes, chocolate slices and tahini-flecked patisseries oozing with childish delight.
Maybe it’s the way they’ve styled their spread—seemingly laissez-faire but clearly done with intention. Maybe it’s the Greek touches in their salads and the Asian influences in their patisseries (influenced by Helen Goh, no less). Or maybe it’s the vibe that they manage to convey, that they actually care about food and flavour. Because despite the stigma we have against buffet towers and soggy salad spreads, Ottolenghi has somehow managed to flip convention, and make abundance in vogue. More than that, they’ve blazed a trail and started a revolution of sorts. Because in virtually every city in the world, you’ll find Otto-wannabe bakeries and cafes, piling their pastries, stacking their salads, making the concept of plenty cool again.
So yes, at times, abundance can be desirable. Maybe even enticing, and definitely indulgent. So here I am, channeling too the spirit of Ottolenghi, through this monster dessert I call a macadamia mound tart. Because really, when you’re faced with a gleaming heap of candied, toasted macadamia, barely held together in a rough-puff flaky tart crust that shatters under the softest bite, abundance begins to make sense.
Macadamia Mound Tart
Shortcrust Pastry (makes enough for 2 tarts)
200g all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
100g butter, cut into rough cubes and chilled
1 teaspoon water, plus more if need
700g macadamia nuts
Shortcrust pastry: Put the flour, salt, and cubes of cold butter into a stand mixer (with a paddle attachment). Then, mix on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until it becomes sandy, with little to no large lumps of butter left. Then, add the egg and a teaspoon of water and mix briefly until the dough comes together. If you find the dough doesn’t come together, add in a bit more water until it does. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The recipe above makes enough for 2 tarts, so you can split it in half and store them separately.)
On a well-floured surface, roll out the shortcrust dough using a rolling pin until it is at least 4 cm/1.5 inches larger than your tart pan all around, and about 2-4mm thick. Lay the dough into the tart pan, making sure to fit the dough snugly into the edges, and trim off the excess dough using a knife or by rolling a rolling pin over the sides of the tart pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then dock it with a fork, fill it with baking beans, and blind-bake it for 25 minutes, removing the beans halfway through the baking process. You want to fully bake the tart shell, so when the middle is nice and brown, you can remove it from the oven and let it cool in the tart pan.
Macadamia filling: Heat your oven up to 160°C. Toast the macadamia in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Then remove it from the oven and set it aside.
To make the caramel, start by sprinkling about a quarter of the sugar into a medium pan, and heat it up until the sugar begins to melt. Some parts of the sugar might melt and caramelise faster than others. But don’t panic, just add some more fresh sugar to the parts that are browning the quickest. Do this until all the sugar has been added, and swirl the pan around to let the sugar even out. Keep heating the sugar until it turns into a dark caramel. (Be careful not to burn it!) Then, when your caramel is a nice deep shade of brown (not black), pour in the water. The caramel will hiss and sputter, but just keep swirling it around until the caramel becomes smooth again. Then, add the salt and toasted macadamia nuts, and mix it all with a spatula until all the macadamia has an even coating of caramel. Moving quickly, pour the macadamia mix into the tart crust, and with a spatula, shape it into a mound.
Let the tart cool for about an hour until it hardens completely. Then, slice it into 8-12 pieces using a serrated knife, and serve!