tart tatinTart tatin appears on menus across the country and hails originally from France, but it baffles some diners. Here, Nick gives us his insider know-how and reveals some of the secrets for making a storming apple pie, French style.

What is a tart tatin?

It’s a classic French fruit and pastry tart. It’s typically made with apples but you’ll also commonly come across pear tatin. Unlike an English apple pie, this is a tart – open topped where you can see the fruit – and the fruit is caramelised. The layout of the fruit appears is part of the effect. The tart is cooked upside down and then turned out onto the plate.

What are your tips to simplifying the caramel process?

Caramel is one of the simplest things, on paper, yet we all get unstuck making it from time to time. To simplify the caramel process buy a good temperature probe. Take the caramel to 120 degrees Celsius and then remove from the pan. Top tip: add a little water at the start with your sugar to create wet sand-like mixture. This will help slow down the caramel process and give you a little more control. It’s a little bit tricky because if the heat is too high the caramel will fly past the right temperature and burn too quickly.

Why is pineapple a good alternative to apples or pears for this dish?

Personally, my favourite is pear. But pineapple works really we because of the the acid and sweet balance it brings to something caramelised. It’s also got quite strong flesh so doesn’t break down to much in the cooking process.

Where does pineapple fit in your ethos for buying local produce wherever possible?

Pineapples do have a season, however, they are also available throughout the year. They are not native to our shores so if you do want to eat or cook with them you have to put up with the food miles. We are currently using pineapple in a kind of take on a pina colada, we are charing one side of the flesh and serving with coconut sorbet, limes & coconut cream. They also make lovely salsa with a few green herbs and oil, when diced nice and small.

How can you use pineapple to lift a savoury dish?

Salsa is a lovely way of getting a bit creative, or perhaps slicing really fine on a gravity slicer or mandolin and using like a carpaccio on the base of a plate. Pineapple is nice with ginger and can be made into a granita/ice, the flavour holds up really well.