It must be nearly 30 years since I had a treacle tart as a Sunday lunch pud. Even in my childhood, treacle tart wasn’t a regular feature of weekend dinner tables compared to spotted dick (don’t ask!), or a fruit crumble or pie. Once in a while though my mum rustled one up and I’d make my slice – or two – last as long as possible. Usually, it would be accompanied by Birds Custard. Today, I might baulk at the custard in preference of cream, but back in the ’70s, custard powder was a larder mainstay along with Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup; both ingredients useful in an array of winter puds – think steamed syrup suet and ginger parkin.
It’s been a long while too since I actually cooked our main meal on Sunday at lunchtime but the weather kept us in today so I had time at the right slot. The blustery damp chill grey – a kind of sea mist that blows rather than hangs – wasn’t inviting enough to venture out in for a first Sunday of the year walk to blow the cobwebs away. No, today was a day to keep warm at all costs, and the longer the oven was on the better (in lieu of any suitable heating inside). Our mains was swordfish baked in an anchovy, tomato and caper sauce topped with sliced potatoes as a useful all-in-one, non-fuss dish. As the oven was on for that, I dug out the syrup tin, the lid of which has stuck fast and gone a very dark brown! Treacle tart uses bread crumbs, so the filling got rid of the remains of a stale Maltese loaf. A dash of citrus juice and zest and some grated root ginger and the pastry case was filled.
Why a brainwave to make treacle tart after all this time? I’ve been re-reading Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries since just before New Year and it fell open a couple of days back at the photo of treacle tart; a basic, regular homemade tart, not, as Slater says, like those of restaurant menus which ooze syrup.
Slater’s Kitchen Diaries is a book I always turn to for inspiration in the bleak winter months of the new year (yes, we do have ‘bleak’ days here in the Mediterranean!). May be it has something to do with the fact that it’s a diary of sorts, and the beginning of the year sees me make a commitment to keeping this blog more updated. I love to spend five minutes over a coffee at the start of my winter weekend days pondering Slater’s slightly whimsical entries. I admire his ability to turn humble ingredients into simple (do-able recipes) that draw on larder staples inspired by a single hero food item purchased on the day from his local market. I find that winter ingredients in the UK tend to be easy to find here in the Mediterranean – calabrese, beetroot, butternut squash, chard, kale and so on, all grow in abundance in Malta this time of year. When spring arrives, I move on to other old favourite cook books, and Slater gets shelved til year end.
I have used my mother’s treacle tart recipe here, not Slater’s, as I like the input of some extra dark treacle, even if I agree with him that this type of tart needn’t be oozy to the point of gooey. The one I photographed here was a bit too chewy for my liking thanks to the stale Maltese bread. A tin loaf, British style, works better as it makes finer crumbs. All the same, it was a wonderful pud for a cold Sunday. I admit to being tempted to make real custard for it next time though for a true 70s’ revival of this archetypal British winter pud!
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 300g fine, white breadcrumbs (use up a stale loaf if possible)
- 600g Golden Syrup
- 1 tbsp treacle
- 3 knobs of butter
- juice of one lemon
- zest on one orange
- 1 inch of root ginger grated, or 2 tsps powdered ginger
- 200g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 100g unsalted butter, chilled
- 3 - 4 tbsps cold water
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade.
- Grease a 24cm shallow, sloping sided metal pie tin.
- Whiz up the bread in a food processor til it's fine breadcrumbs and then place them in a medium bowl.
- Melt the golden syrup, treacle and butter in a bain marie over a low heat. (A bain marie is a bowl placed over a pan over just simmering water).
- When the syrup mix is melted, pour over the breadcrumbs, add the citrus zest and juice and ginger and combine thoroughly so the breadcrumbs are well coated. Set aside while you make the pastry case.
- Whiz up the flour and cubed butter in a food processor along with the pinch of salt until a fine breadcrumb texture. Add the cold water a tbsp at a time and continue to whiz in the processor until the pastry is coming together. Tip out, knead gently into a ball, flatten to a disc and then cover with cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 mins.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to fit the pie tin. Line the tin, but don't trim off the excess pastry. Prick the pastry case with a fork, brush with a little milk and bake blind for 10-15 mins til firm and medium hard when tapped with a finger.
- Remove and fill the pie case with the syrup filling. Trim off excess pastry round the pie tin rim. Return to the oven and bake for 30 mins or until a dark gold and firm to touch.
- Rest for 10 minutes before serving with pouring or whipped cream (or custard).
- Keeps well for two days, covered and chilled. Best to reheat covered in foil but nice cold too of course!