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Sultana Meringue Tart

describe this as a 1960s English old tart. It's not really very old, but it is nevertheless steeped in memories of an era when we saw an end to the old restricted attitudes and ingredients of the war years. This was a time when cookery writers such as Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson and Robert Carrier were opening doors into experiences full of colour and excitement. Tentative would-be cooks ventured upon their first dinner parties. Exciting dishes from far-off places started to appear - bortsch, stuffed aubergines, chilli con came, together with new puddings so much more adventurous than those we had known at home or school. Alcohol, too, was now more readily available to liven up a recipe and make cooks feel they were breaking new ground. Although very much a 1960s tart, this has a strong ring of much earlier times with its use of dried fruit, alcohol and spices, but is given the 1960s finishing touch with the bold meringue topping.

ingredients

175 g (6 oz) rich sweet shortcrust pastry

For The Filling:
85 g (3 oz) sultanas
3 tablespoons brandy (or rum)
1 heaped tablespoon caster sugar
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
large pinch of salt
400 ml (14 fl oz) double cream
4 egg yolks

For The Meringue Topping:
3 egg whites
175 g (6 oz) caster sugar

method

1. Line a shallow 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. Put the sultanas in a bowl with the brandy, stir to mix and leave to soak for 30 minutes.

3. Place the sugar, cornflour, spices and salt in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add a small quantity of the double cream and mix to a smooth paste, being careful to get rid of any lumps in the cornflour. Add the remaining cream, stir well, then continue gentle occasional stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth but thick. Remove the bowl from the heat.

4. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl, then dribble the egg yolks into the cream mixture, whisking all the time. Return the bowl to the pan of simmering water and cook for a few more minutes, stirring, until the mixture becomes thick, but be careful not to let the mixture boil. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the sultanas and brandy, then set aside to cool, but stir occasionally to prevent a skin forming.

5. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they reach the soft peak stage. Add half the sugar in 2 - 3 batches, whisking well, then fold in the remaining sugar using a metal spoon.

6. Put the sultana cream mixture into the pre-baked pastry case. Cover with the meringue, making sure it goes right up to the edges of the tart. Fluff it up with a fork. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown and crisp to the touch. Remove from the oven and let it cool.

Serve lukewarm or cold, with cream or creme fraiche. COOK'S TIP - This recipe may be baked in eight 8cm (3 1/4 in) tartlet tins.

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