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Chestnut and Chocolate Raisin Tart

The chestnut seems to have originated in Asia Minor. It was grown by the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago and was brought to Britain by the Romans. The nut was used to make chestnut flour and early versions of the now fashionable maize polenta. In Britain, the chestnut was used primarily for feeding to animals or for roasting on grills in open fires, mostly around Christmas. Elsewhere in Europe, the chestnut was given enhanced status by being crystallised, as in marrons glacis, or made into sweet purees or put in soups, sauces and gravies. It has experienced a bit of a comeback in Britain with the revival of the combination of Brussels sprouts and chestnuts as an essential accompaniment to Christmas roast turkey.
In the world of puddings the chestnut is inseparable from chocolate and there are a number of old recipes combining the two. For this tart use good quality chestnut puree.

ingredients

serves 8
175 g (6 oz) rich sweet shortcrust pastry
200 g (7 oz) cream cheese
two 250 g (9 oz) cans sweetened chestnut puree
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons brandy
115 g (4 oz) raisins, plumped up for a few minutes in hot water, then drained and dried
115 g (4 oz) dark chocolate (use a good quality dark cooking chocolate)
25 g (1 oz) light soft brown sugar
4 tablespoons double cream

method

1. Line a shallow 23 cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.

2. In a bowl, whisk the cream cheese with the chestnut puree until well mixed. Whisk in the eggs and brandy, then stir in the plumped-up raisins. Spoon the mixture into the pre-baked pastry case.

3. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until well risen and light golden brown. During baking, the mixture will rise up and you will feel like panicking because there is no room for the chocolate topping, but it will sink down again. Remove the tart from the oven and set aside to cool.

4. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heat-proof bowl with the sugar and cream. Place the bowl over a pan of very hot water. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth, then spoon the mixture onto the cooled tart. Cool to allow the topping to firm up before serving.

5. Serve at room temperature, accompanied by a glass of suitable wine, such as a sauterne or monbazillac.

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