Food and memories
Her Secret past is filled with memories and many of those memories are attached in some way to food. We all have certain meals, sweets, snacks or cakes that take us instantly back to a moment in our past as soon as we bite into them.
I took a memory from my childhood and used it in the novel. My Nanna was a brilliant cook. I loved eating at her house, especially dessert. There was one that everyone loved, so we got it pretty regularly, Nanna’s custard tart. The weird thing is, I’ve never really liked custard of any form but I loved my Nanna’s. It was creamy and smooth, sweet and silky and speckled with warming nutmeg spice. Delicious.
Here’s a short excerpt from Her Secret Past illustrating how much Ryan loves custard tart!
Memories cropped up all over the place—Gran had spent a lot of time in the kitchen. She’d baked the most delicious of things. I loved her custard tart the best, and if I went to stay there would always be one cooling on the kitchen table.
Well, as long as Ryan hadn’t got there first. He had a habit of convincing Gran to give said pies to him. He used to come up with some wacky claims, and I really think Gran gave in simply for the imagination in them.
There was the time his aunt had fallen down a well and desperately needed sustenance. Then there was the picky pet cat who’d only eat homemade custard tart. And my favorite was the disease he’d made up that needed an hourly intake of egg custard to combat. Gran always used to make another, just for me, but it rankled that my best mate kept nicking my treats.
Now, here’s the recipe for you, so you can find out for yourself how delicious it is!
Nanna’s Custard Tart
110g plain flour.
50g butter slightly softened
pinch of salt
a little cold water
For the filling:
400ml single cream
1 teaspoon butter
40g caster sugar
2 large eggs , beaten.
1 egg beaten (just for brushing on the pastry case)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 whole nutmeg
Sift flour into a large bowl and add the pinch of salt. Then cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour, until you have a grainy texture like sand. Add the water slowly, and mix until it makes a stiff dough. Place it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Roll it out to about 2-3 cms thick, wide enough to fit your tin (I use a 28cm round tin with a removable base). Place in the tin and press against the sides. Trim off any excess pastry. Prick the base with a fork to release any trapped air. Pop the pastry (in the tin!) into the fridge for 30 mins.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5.
Take out the pastry case and line with baking paper/foil then fill the case with baking beans. Bake blind for 20 mins, then remove the beans and brush the inside of the case with beaten egg. Place back in the over for another 20 mins until the base is lightly golden and baked through. Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 180°C, gas mark 4.
On to the filling! Put the cream and butter in a saucepan and bring it up to a gentle simmer. Separately whisk the beaten eggs and sugar together in a large heatproof jug but don’t over whisk as you don’t want bubbles.
Pour the hot cream and butter over the beaten eggs, then add the vanilla extract and about half the freshly grated nutmeg and whisk ‘til just mixed.
Pour the filling into the tart case and grate more of the nutmeg all over.
Place the pastry case on a baking sheet and place it in the oven. Then bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is just set in the center. (test by prodding with your finger) Leave to cool before serving.
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