I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970s, not years that are particularly renowned for exciting developments in the food world unless you consider Vesta chow mein, chicken Kiev or Angel Delight to be top notch cuisine. Celebrity chefs at the time included people like Fanny Cradock and “The Galloping Gourmet” although Delia Smith and Mary Berry were nipping closely at their heels and today are regarded as cooking and baking royalty.
My main food memories of that time are connected to school dinners, something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives and have mixed feelings about. Apart from the lingering odour of stewed cabbage, I mostly remember the puddings: semolina (often lumpy) with a blob of bright red jam in the middle, pink wobbly blancmange, lemon meringue pie, baked Alaska and suchlike.
My all-time favourite school dessert was called Gypsy Tart and I’ve been surprised to find out that many people have never heard of it. This is probably explained by the fact that it originates from the county of Kent where I grew up but it’s a little disappointing that its fame hasn’t spread further. Gypsy Tart is very sweet as it’s made with evaporated milk and muscovado sugar whipped up and poured into a pastry case. It has the advantage of being very quick to make (especially if you use a pre-made pastry case) and also cheap. The filling firms up as it cooks and the tart has a creamy, almost butterscotch-like flavour which instantly transports me back to my carefree childhood and the memory of the one school dessert that I actually liked!
You can make one large Gypsy Tart in a standard flan tin which can be cut into elegant slices or make smaller individual tarts – see the photograph. I appreciate that not everybody likes making pastry (it’s not my strong point, I have to admit as I have warm hands) or has the confidence to do so, therefore there is no great shame in using pre-made pastry cases from the supermarket. So, I give you a quick and easy to make, cost-effective and apparently ‘retro’ dessert with only three ingredients. How easy is that?
Pre-made pastry case – 1 large or 6 small
400 mls evaporated milk
330g muscovado sugar
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C / gas mark 3 and place the pastry case(s) on a baking tray.
Whisk the evaporated milk and muscovado sugar together for at least 15 minutes on a fast speed. This will dissolve the grainy sugar and result in a light, creamy filling.
Pour the milk mixture into the pre-baked pastry case(s) and cook for 10 – 15 minutes until the filling has risen and the surface is ‘tacky’.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool and set before serving. You can decorate the top with grated or melted chocolate if you like. The tart goes well with a dollop of vanilla ice cream or fresh double cream.