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Plain is yummy - two tarts

“Plain fare gives as much pleasure as a costly diet" Epicurus (341?-270 BC)

A few Guardian newsletters ago there were two recipes for pretty plain tarts. Above on the left Bakewell tart - a traditional tart from Bakewell in Derbyshire, with jam on the base and a topping of almond frangipane with almonds on top - sometimes icing. I'm pretty sure I did this once before, so I won't linger much on it. The origins are pretty unclear really, although Bakewell claims it as its own and makes tourist money out of it. It's a very pretty little town in the Peak District, so all power to them to making something of themselves.

I remember eating Bakewell tart fairly often as a child. I think my mother made it but we probably just as often bought it from the baker or a grocer, later the supermarket. There are tons of recipes out there but Felicity Cloake takes you through the potential variations.

"that frangipane shouldn't be stodgy, or wincingly sweet. The pastry mustn't be cardboardy, or soft. And the jam … well, that's a veritable wasp's nest." Felicity Cloake

Actually there don't seem to be that many variations but I will mention two that I found here. The first is from Jamie Oliver which he calls Italian-style Bakewell tart and the second is from Nathan Outlaw from delicious. uk. Both of them go mildly Italian - Outlaw uses vincotto in his mix and Jamie uses plums with rosemary and a limoncello icing. The Italian slant makes sense because apparently the frangipane thing is of Italian origin.

Whilst still on Jamie though - and Italy - have a watch of this video in which, aged 30, so a long time ago, he made a Baked almond tart for the Pope's secretary who was visiting the monastery in which he was staying. Jamie looks worried and very anxious that it would turn out alright. He made two versions here - no jam but stoned cherries in one and peaches in the other.

I don't know why, but whenever jam is involved in a recipe it seems to me that it drops in the estimation of foodies? Why? Particularly if the jam is homemade. Felicity Cloake, in fact makes a sort of compote - a rather looser and with chunkier bits, kind of jam for her tart. Call this tart Bakewell Tart and it becomes sort of ordinary. Call it Frangipane Tart and suddenly it's posh.

On to my other plain tart which is from South Africa and Tom Hunt in The Guardian. He calls it Dikmelktert - Grandma's sour milk tart which is a variation on the more traditional plain milk tart - which is even plainer than his version. His version, however, uses what he calls "short-date pasteurised milk or soured raw milk that has thickened" I'm not sure what he really means here. Does he actually mean milk that is just going sour? Maybe not because of the 'thickened' bit. I mean if milk has gone far enough to go sort of curdy, then surely it's gone too far. I could give it a try with the milk I have at the moment which has passed it's use by date I suppose. But you mix it with yoghurt too. Fundamentally, I suppose it's a custard tart, although Wikipedia says:

"The ratio of milk to eggs is higher than in a traditional Portuguese custard tart or Chinese egg tart, resulting in a lighter texture and a stronger milk flavour." Wikipedia

Again there are lots of recipe for a plain South African milk tart - Melktert - which is a food of the Boer settlers and dates back to the 17th century. Yotam Ottolenghi has a go though - Melktert with a few more exotic ingredients - of course. However it looks pretty plain. And this is something that you don't cook either - well you cook the pastry and you cook the custard, but you don't cook the two together. It sets in the fridge.

Apologies this has been a somewhat basic post on basic things, but then sometimes that's all we feel like is it not?

"Plain and simple. In a world of chaos, simplicity can be a refuge." Melissa Gaman/Food Network

I'm being more adventurous with dinner though. From Shelf Love by Ottolenghi and co. comes One pan crispy spaghetti and chicken. Crossing my fingers on that one. And then I'm going to have a go at an apple and blackberry strudel. Got to go and start cooking.

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