Saturday, April 18, 2009

The curd tart disappears

If you grew up in the north of England, your mum (and her mum, and maybe her mum) had a Be-Ro Home Recipes book, which was the Bible for basic bakery.

My mum has used the recipes for so long that she doesn't even need the book any more. It's all in her head.

It's a great no-nonsense resource for traditional pastries and puddings: pork pie, dropped scones, bakewell tart (an almond/ground-rice cake over a jam filling), toffee pudding (first ingredient: suet. Don't start), and the ultimate Christmas cake.

I have two: the 38th and 40th editions. Neither has a publication date. Only one has a barcode.

Check the not-very-PC photo of the woman passing on womanly skills to the girl while the boy looks on with satisfaction.

"I will make an obedient helpmeet!"

Anyway, back to the point.

For Easter, I decided to dip into the book and make something I hadn't eaten since I was a kid: curd tart. It's a very simple cheesecake variation; though the
traditional method uses curd (which not even WholeFoods carries), it's often made with cottage cheese.

Stop going "Ewwww!" Just be patient.

Curd tart recipe
6oz short pastry

1 cup cottage cheese
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons currants
1 egg
1.5oz butter, melted
cinnamon and nutmeg
(I also added a little lemon zest)

Line a shallow dish with the pastry. Mix all other ingredients together. Bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

It's not dense like cheesecake; it's more like a ricotta dessert, with just enough of the nutmeg/raisin/creamy combination to feel traditionally English without it freaking anyone out. No lard here.

I noticed, though, that the curd tart recipe was in the 38th ed. of the book, but not in the most recent one. Pineapple upside-down cake was also missing (replaced by upside-down peach and butterscotch pudding—eww!). As was the toffee pudding and the malted fruit loaf.

Replacing them were a coconut lime loaf, a "monster-faced pizza" and the dubiously named Sticky Blobs.

It's not often I shed a tear for the passing of tradition. And I understand food trends shift and change. Still, I'm sad that recipes I grew up with are archived in favor of exotic flavor combinations and fun foods for kids. They're not even on the Be-Ro website's recipe list.

My 38th edition lost its staples a while ago; the cover is spotted with dry dough and the pages are stained and warped. But I'll hang on to it for as long as it's legible.

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