If you have an extended social life in the run-up to Christmas, and sample nothing but mince pies throughout December, by the time you get to the 25th, what with the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, you can be all mince-pied out.
Also, sometimes you find yourself fancying something a little savoury at the end of a meal, and this is why this recipe is perfect. It’s simple and straightforward – just two main ingredients of fresh cranberries and juicy raisins. The raisins take the edge off the sometimes eye-popping sharpness of the cranberries and the little dash of vanilla also gives the aroma of sweetness, so only the merest sprinkle of sugar is required. It’s festively reminiscent enough of a mince pie to deserve a place on the table, its fresh-tasting, palate-cleansing, sweet but not too sweet, can be served hot or cold, but ALWAYS with a slice of cheese. I’m thinking some vintage cheddar, crumbly white Cheshire or even one of the fruited cheeses – white Stilton and apricot anyone?
It is a traditional (Welsh) border tart, ideal for Christmas – just look at that glorious colour! The original 1930s recipe in Mrs Arthur Webb’s Farmhouse Cookery didn’t specify any particular pastry, so I’m taking the opportunity to offer for your delectation and amusement, a new pastry recipe! Yes, I know I love the cornflour pastry – and I really do, both sweet and savoury versions – but I can’t resist something that has the potential to add a new arrow to my pastry quiver, as it were, and in this case, I’m really glad that I did.
It’s Eliza Acton’s 1845 recipe for cream pastry and it has my seal of approval for several reasons:
- Simplicity – in its basic form, it can be whisked together with just two ingredients.
- Taste – when baked, it is crisp and dry, without any hint of greasiness or stodginess.
- It can be enriched with butter, but at a ratio of just 1/4 fat-to-flour, it is not as indulgent as it tastes. When enriched with butter, the texture is moving towards the flakiness of flaky pastry, yet with the ‘dryness’ and crispness of the cornflour pastry – Nom!
- And on the practical side, it handles and rolls really nicely.
You can, of course, use your own favourite pastry instead.
Radnor Cranberry Tart
Eliza Acton’s Cream Pastry
This quantity makes enough for a 20cm pie.
225g plain flour
300-450ml double cream
- Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
- With the motor running, gradually add in the cream, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together.
- Tip the mixture out and knead until smooth.
- Roll out the pastry into a long rectangle.
- Using the same method as for Flaky Pastry, dot over half the butter.
- Fold the ends over, turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat.
- Roll out one last time, and fold the ends inwards.
- Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling (see below).
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into 2 pieces (2/3 + 1/3 is about right).
- Roll out the large piece and use it to line a greased, 20cm loose bottomed tart tin. Ease the pastry into the sides, rather than just stretching it by pressing down too hard. Leave the excess hanging over the edge of the tin.
- Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to make the lid, and lay it onto a cutting board.
- Chill both pieces of pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will make sure it is relaxed and less prone to shrinkage in the oven.
- By this time, the filling should be cool enough to use.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Remove the two lots of pastry from the fridge.
- Fill the lined tin with the cooled filling and smooth over.
- Using a pastry brush, wet the edges of the pastry, then lay the lid across the top and press the edges together.
- Trim off the excess using the back of a knife.
- Crimp the edges to your liking – I used the tines of a fork to make for a good seal.
- Brush the surface of the tart with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Cut a steam vent in the middle of the pastry lid using a sharp knife.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool, if not serving warm.
- Serve with a nice wedge of cheese.
450g fresh cranberries
60ml cold water
0.5tsp vanilla extract
- Rinse the cranberries and put them in a pan with the raisins, sugar and water.
- Cover and warm on a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and you can hear the cranberries starting to pop.
- Simmer for just five minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Taste to make sure of the sweetness, but remember, this is not supposed to be a really sweet tart, however, it shouldn’t be too sour either. If you think it needs a little more sugar, add it by all means.
- Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.