The Death of Hope, or Mary Berry’s Tarte Au Citron 

I was talking to a colleague the other day and he said he hated the idea of hope. It was always harking to the future, he said. It drew attention away from what was happening in the present, and set you up for perpetual disappointment. “I hope it doesn’t rain today” – so what if it rains? Stay inside and eat malteasers on the sofa. Make the most of what you have, don’t wish your life away.

He is a much more accepting person than me. I don’t like the idea of hope either, because it is so passive. Obviously, not even I think I can control the weather, but I can control a lot – or try to. I can create the conditions of success. Some things are down to dumb chance and those are the ones to use your hope on. But anything that requires some input from you – don’t waste the brain space.

“I hope to get my novel published” is not as good as “this week, I queried three literary agents.” “I hope to have a happy marriage” means nothing. Of course you do. “Tonight, I will learn to make my husband’s favourite pudding” is a smaller statement – but much more real.

All of this is a long way of saying that Mary Berry’s Tarte Au Citron recipe is really very good.

I will not attempt to steal it and pass the recipe off as my own because I didn’t change anything and I rcommend you don’t either. It is crisp and rich and sharp and buttery and creamy and gorgeous. The pastry was baked just enough, the filling just set. It did not have a soggy bottom. I was extremely proud of it.

The only problem is that it is an absolute bitch of a job to roll out the pastry. Mary suggests some sort of awful faff that involves drawing a circle on some grease proof paper, and then rolling the pastry directly onto the bottom of the tin until it meets that circle, and then you pick it up and it BLOODY SPLITS ANYWAY despite your grease proof paper care and then some of the filling leaks out… But whatever. Pastry is just difficult, isn’t it? Pastry is one of those things you have to have hands on experience of, not just have read a load of cookery blogs so you reckon you can wing it. But that’s okay. I will practice, and do perfect pastry one day.

I will make Paul many lemon tarts over the years, I hope.

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