Also known as Manchester Pudding or Queen of Puddings Tart, this recipe embraces the earliest of tart traditions in its use of breadcrumbs, but it has a distinctly Victorian feel to it. The story associated with it is that when Queen Victoria made a royal visit to Manchester, the humble, everyday local pudding was glamorised for her visit with the addition of a meringue topping.
For many of us, the Manchester Tart was served up as a regular school pudding, with many different names and fillings, including lemon curd, and toppings like chocolate blancmange decorated with 'hundreds and thousands'. A more upmarket chocolate and apricot version was served up at Cheltenham Ladies College. The recipe given here, however, is adapted from the original Queen Victoria version. It is a tart to be devoured immediately.
serves 8 - 10
225g (8 oz) rich sweet shortcrust pastry
for the filling:
115 g (4 oz) stale white breadcrumbs
425 ml (3/4 pint) single or double cream
150 ml (1/4 pint) whole milk
3 bay leaves
grated zest of 1 lemon
55 g (2 oz) caster sugar
4 tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon cocoa powder for the chocolate version (optional)
3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons apricot, strawberry or
for the meringue topping:
3 egg whites
175 g (6 oz) caster sugar
1. Line a deep 23cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.
2. Place the breadcrumbs in a saucepan, add the cream, milk, bay leaves, lemon zest and caster sugar and stir to mix. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat, then remove and discard the bay leaves and stir in the brandy (and cocoa, if making the chocolate version). At this stage the mixture will be something like porridge. Add the egg yolks and beat well in.
3. Spread the jam over the base of the pre-baked case. Spoon the soggy breadcrumb mixture over the jam. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, by which time the mixture will have risen and be golden in colour, but will still have a slight wobble in the middle. Remove from the oven.
4. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until soft peaks form. Whisk in half the sugar and beat again until very shiny. Fold in the remaining sugar using a metal spoon and spread the meringue over the top of the breadcrumb filling.
5. Return the tart to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the topping is crisp and golden. SERVE hot or warm with single cream.
Cook's Tip - If you run out of time, or find meringues too fiddly to make, you can eat the tart plain (leaving the tart in the oven for 10 minutes extra). Sprinkle some grated nutmeg or ground cinnamon on top of the baked plain tart just before serving.
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