Once more it’s time to venture into the highly-terrifying world of traditional recipes. As I said recently, when I wrote about Kleftiko, when you tackle a traditional recipe you can guarantee someone will always pop up and rubbish one of your ingredients or techniques as anathema to their grandmother’s way of doing things. But given that I’m half-Yorkshire genetically, I’m willing to take them on. (Yes, I use nutmeg! Sue me!)
Curd tarts were traditionally made to use up left-over curds from the cheese-making process and so were popular in cheese-making areas such as Somerset, Leicestershire and Yorkshire. In particular they were baked around Whitsuntide, a period of feasting and festivals that happened to coincide with a time of year when cows produced excess milk. It was said that you could pave Melton Mowbray with curd tarts at Whitsuntide! They are still a speciality in Yorkshire and I remember seeing them in bakers when I went to visit my Grandma as a child (although to be honest, we usually plumped for a chocolate éclair).
Special occasion tarts would be made with ‘firstings’ or ‘biestyn’ milk, which is colostrum, the milk produced when a cow has just given birth. Yellow and as thick as double cream, it’s designed to empty out the digestive tracts of newborns of all the gunk they’ve ingested before and during birth (sorry if you’re eating). It’s also highly nutritious and full of antibodies. Funnily enough, my local Budgens seemed to be all out of biestyn and so I went for normal blue-top milk to make my curds.
1.2 litres of full-cream milk
2 lemons (have a spare in case it takes more lemon juice to curdle the milk)
140g plain flour
A large pinch of baking powder
1 tsp caster sugar
50g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp rose water
To make the curds for your tart, heat up 1.2 litres of full-cream milk until it starts to boil (but catch it before it goes crazy). Add the juice of one lemon and turn the heat down; the milk should start to curdle.
If it doesn’t, try adding some more lemon juice. When you have curds floating in watery whey, scoop them into a clean tea-towel or muslin into a colander and leave them to drain overnight.
Preheat your oven to 180˚C / 160˚C fan-assisted / Gas Mark 4. To make the pastry, mix the flour, baking powder, butter and caster sugar in a food mixer until it resembles very fine breadcrumbs. Tip it into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and add enough cold water to make a smooth dough. Knead it gently and then wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and put it into the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
To make the tart filling, beat the butter and caster sugar until soft and then add the eggs to combine. Break up the curds and add them to the mixture; mix them in well so that there are no big lumpy bits. Add the currants, nutmeg and rose water and mix through.
Roll out the pastry and line a greased 20cm pie dish that’s about one inch deep. Spread the curd mixture over the base of the tart and bake it for about 40 minutes until the filling is set and slightly browned. Serve warm or cold, in slices.
Because I used home-made fresh cheese to make this tart I am sharing it with this month’s Cheese, Please! Challenge, hosted by me here.
And because this month’s theme over at Bloggers Around the World is Great Britain, I’m sharing it there too.