Friday, 19 June 2015

Shakespearean Pieday

We have made far too many pies with pre-prepared pastry lately.
Clearly then, it was time to stop messing about and get our hands dirty* again.

Furthermore having spent quite some time messing around with cup measures, pecans, non-traditional muffins** and other such transatlantic faradiddles I felt the time had come to create something unarguably British.
We embarked, therefore, upon a confection of unquestionable provenance***, a pie greased with the patina of ages, a delicacy with which one might cry "God for England, Harry and St George".

In short

We made a Westmorland Tart


175g flour (kept in a covered bowl, in the fridge or freezer until needed)
A pinch of salt (with which to take the authenticity of this recipe)
2 tbsp caster sugar
110g of butter (also kept in the fridge till needed)
Another 25g of butter (not kept in the fridge)
1 egg yolk (make meringues with the rest)
200g of raisins
85g of chopped dates
85g dark muscovado sugar, or whatever soft**** brown sugar you can get.
Half a lemon (make those lemon meringues)
A good slug of orange juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
3 tbsp rum (and use the good stuff, not the sort you could use to clean the silver with)
100g walnut halves.

First quickly sift together the flour, salt and sugar.
Next get out the grater and, again working quickly, grate the butter into the flour mixture.
Explain that yes, this does seem rather silly, but actually keeping everything cold stops it melting together before you cook it and produces a better pastry.
Realise that you've been standing there, holding the butter in your warn little mitts as you explained this and that it is now no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, cold.
Finish grating the butter into the flour and quickly rub the stringy yellow worms into the rest of the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Now break in the egg and stir it together to produce a stiffish dough.
When If it proves to be too crumbly to hold together, add a spoonful or so of water.
Resolve argument between co-chefs over who is to provide the water: Small Chef broke the egg so Smallest Chef will be water bearer.
Accept censure over unfair egg-bias: Small Chef always gets to break the egg because when Smallest Chef breaks eggs you get a bowl full of shell and she gets a fist full of slimy fragments.
Acknowledge fault in this issue and agree that more eggs will be broken by all in the near future.
Plan to make omelettes tomorrow.
And to buy more kitchen detergent.

Work the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and stick back in the fridge.
Make a cup of tea and go off to water the garden or something.
Drink the tea before it goes cold.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees or whatever counts as a moderate pie oven in your house.
Roll the pastry into a circle, press gently into your pie tin of choice, prick with a fork, apply baking parchment and beans or scrunched-up-tinfoil-filled with rice***** and bake blind for about twenty minutes until you have a nice, lightly golden pie case.

Now put everything else except the walnuts into a pan on a low heat and stir gently until the butter has melted.
Once it has done so, bring the pan to the boil and then immediately turn off the heat.
Allow it to cool, then stir in the walnuts.

Spoon the resulting, stickily brown mixture into the pie case and return the whole thing to the oven for another five or ten minutes.

Remove tart from the oven, go and put on Henry the Fifth, retrieve a slice or two of tart******* and watch the former with the latter.
Do not join in with the speeches.
Well, not with your mouth full, anyway.

Finish pie.
Wish you had but one ten thousand more.

*Well, not dirty, exactly, but definitely not clean.
Just faintly gritty with flour and sugar and that awkward buttery texture that's a pain in the neck to scrub off.

**It has come to this: last week I saw a packet of muffins labelled English Breakfast Muffins.
O tempora, o mores. 

***Except it was probably invented in Colorado in the nineteen fifties, knowing my luck.

****Do not use granulated sugar.
If you use granulated sugar in this recipe then Drake's drum will beat and the heroes of Britain's chequered past will arise to point at you and laugh.
Or something.

*****Or whatever you use to bake pies blind.
Not using anything will not fill your house with Elizabethan zombies******, but may result in a puffed up pie case with less room for its delicious filling.
You have been warned.


******* Optional extra: Cumberland Cream.
Take 150ml double cream, 20g icing sugar and 2tbsp good rum.
Whip them all together and chill till needed.
Eat on the hot tart********.
Do not give any to the kids.

********There will probably be a lot left over.
Fortunately it also goes wonderfully in coffee, hot chocolate and other such non-traditional vehicles.

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