Getting the Timing Right
Sussex Pond Pudding: serves 6
8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
4 oz (110g) shredded suet
5 fl oz (150ml) water
4 oz (100g) butter, diced
4 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
1 large lemon
Make the suet pastry by putting the flour, suet and salt into a bowl and mixing in water to make a soft dough. Knead lightly and turn onto a lightly floured board and press out to make a large circle. Cut away a quarter of the dough and set this to one side, use the remaining dough to line a pudding basin.
Put half the butter and half the sugar in the dough-lined basin, then prick the lemon all over with a fork, and place this on top. Cover with the remaining butter and sugar.
Roll out the reserved pastry to make a lid, brushing the pastry edges in the basin with water so that when the lid and edges are pressed together they make a good seal. Cover with a double and pleated sheet of greaseproof paper (the pleat allowing for expansion). Tie the paper round to keep in place.
Stand the basin on a trivet (or upturned saucer) in a large saucepan, and pour round boiling water to come halfway up the basin. Cover and boil for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, checking the water occasionally to see if it needs topping up.
To serve, remove paper, slide a knife round between pastry and bowl, and upturn carefully into a serving dish. Cut the pudding in wedges making sure everyone has a piece of the softened lemon and spoonfuls of the sweet buttery sauce that the lemon is now floating in.
The final recipe today is for the famous little tarts made in the time of Henry VIII (and probably even earlier) and given the name by the King after he was offered one by his Queen's attendants (known as 'maids of honour') while he was sitting in the gardens at Hampton Court Palace. His Queen at that time was Catherine of Aragon and as one of her attendants was Anne Boleyn (she may have been the one who gave him the tart) - well we know what happened next!
These cakes are still sold in the Hampton Court area, and the Yorkshire Curd Tart is very similar. Not sure when sugar started to be used in this country, perhaps honey was used instead in the original cakes, but follow the recipe below to get as true a flavour of the originals as possible. Best made on the day of making (to keep the pastry crisp), they will store in an airtight tin for up to 3 days (but the pastry may then soften).
Maids of Honour: makes 24
1 lb (or 500g pack) shortcrust pastry
8 oz (225g) curd cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz (100g) light brown sugar
4 tblsp single cream
2 tbslp orange flower water, rose water, or brandy
5 oz (150g) ground almonds
2 oz (50g) raisins, finely chopped
icing sugar (for sifting)
Roll the pastry out as thinly as possible, and cut out 24 circles to fit 2 x 12 deepish tart tins, line the tins with the pastry then chill.
Beat the curd cheese, eggs, sugar, cream, ground almonds, raisins and chosen flavouring together, then - when well combined - spoon into the pastry cases and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes or so until well risen and golden. When cooked they should feel firm to the touch. Cool for several minutes in their tins before carefully removing and placing on a cake airer to get cold. Sift with icing sugar to serve.