#208 Cumberland Plate Tart

It seems that the further north you go in England, the more desserts and teatime treats using currants and raisins there are: Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes are the ones that spring to mind. I’ve never heard of one from Cumberland before; funny, since there are actually two recipes from there in English Food.

I think these things were popular because they are very comforting and definitely a wintertime food, and it is grim Up North, as we know. It has been particularly grim at the minute – particularly around the Cumberland area – so I thought I’d give one a go. The best thing about the recipe is that it is a very good store-cupboard pud – I didn’t have to buy anything, I had it all in! Tiny things please tiny minds.

First make some shrtcrust pastry using 2 ounces each of butter and lard, 8 ounces of plain flour and some milk. Roll out half and line a deep oven-proof plate. Now make the filling: weigh out 3 ½ ounces of golden syrup. To do this, put a saucepan on your scales and tare them before adding the syrup. Add an ounce of butter to the pan and warm though gently so that the butter melts and the syrup becomes runny. Now stir in 5 ounces of either raisins or currants (or a mixture, you devil), an ounce of chopped peel, an ounce of ground almonds, ¼ teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, allspice and salt and finally 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Use some egg white to brush around the edges of the pastry, roll out the last of the pastry and cover it. Crimp the edges, make a hole in the centre and then brush with more egg white and sprinkle with some caster sugar. Bake for 15 minutes at 220⁰C, then turn the oven down to 190⁰C and bake for a further 30 minutes. She don’t say, but serve it with some cream, innit.

#208 Cumberland Plate Tart. Just what the doctor ordered! I really like this sort of dessert, but many can’t abide currants and raisins and things like that these days, so they are going out of fashion which is a big shame. What can be bad about sweet fruit, moist almonds and good old golden syrup? Bring ‘em back I say. 6.5/10

#116 Apple and Raisin Pie

A good honest hotpot deserved a good honest pudding. I wanted a desert-version of a hotpot and went for this apple and raisin pie. This, people, is no ordinary apple pie – it is a buttered apple pie, very popular in the Seventeenth Century. It’s very easy to do, especially if you use bought puff pastry.

Peel, core and quarter 3 ½ pounds of Cox’s Orange Pippin apples and quarters the quarters into six and place in a bowl. Sprinkle over 4 ounces of caster sugar and the grated zest of half a lemon and mix. Melt 4 ounces of unsalted butter in a pan and pour over the apples and lastly 4 ounces of raisins. Mix again and place the apples and buttery juices into a large pie dish. Roll out some puff pastry and cut out a shape large enough to cover the dish. With the trimmings, roll out a thin length of pastry and glue it to the rim with egg white. Then using more egg white glue on the pastry lid and glaze with more egg white. Sprinkle the top with a little sugar and make a slit in the pastry so the steam can escape. Bake in a hot oven – around 220ºC – for 15-20 minutes, and then turn down to 160-180ºC and bake for a further 30-45 minutes until the apples are tender. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

#116 Apple and Raisin Pie – 9.5/10. This is the best apple pie I’ve ever made. The apples were still tart but swimming in a lovely sweet, rich buttery liquor that was the perfect balance. The raisins were very juicy and plump and the pastry crisp. Total genius. Go and make this pie right now, people!