Today’s delve into the past comes from the 1949 edition of Lily Gilmour’s “Everyday Cookery”. Lily seems to have taken a rather wide definition of every day cookery because some of the recipes would probably take most of the day, such as the haggis made from scratch. The first ingredient in the list is a sheep’s pluck. For the uninitiated, a pluck is the heart, liver and lights. Lights means lungs, by the way. Second ingredient on the list – a sheep’s stomach bag. Are you salivating yet?
My favourite recipe in the book is for “fried crumbs”. The recipe – and you might want to get a pen to write this down - advises to heat butter in a frying pan, add breadcrumbs and stir over a gentle heat until they turn golden brown. Oh Lily, however do you come up with your ideas?
For all my mocking, this is actually a nice little cook book with lots of useful advice for the housewife…make no mistake, it is intended only for the housewife; the unmarried or male must look elsewhere for recipes. As with many books of the time the writing style is authoritarian and doom laden – for example, rather than telling us that cakes should always go into pre-heated ovens, we are instead told: a cold oven is fatal. I’m assuming Lily means it’s fatal for the cake? Or maybe it’s a threat?
The recipe that caught my eye was for these little macaroon cakes. I have never made tartlets before that use puff, rather than shortcrust, pastry. I used pre-rolled, pre-made butter puff pastry; much as I like making things from scratch my exceptions to the rule are puff and filo pastry. Lily’s recipe for puff pastry (listed elsewhere in the book) suggests that it will go from ingredients to finished pastry in less than 30 minutes…I’m rather dubious about that!
If you use pre-made pastry (hangs head in shame) these are a quick bake. They are also extremely tasty; personally though, I would prefer shortcrust pastry. Lily doesn’t list jam in the ingredients list but mentions it in the method so I have added it to my ingredients list below. I have also doubled the ingredients as I thought those given were meagre, they actually would have made 12 tartlets.
The macaroon element of this recipe is old-school! Forget the fancy little sandwiched Laduree things, these are the crunchy and chewy almond delights! The batter, on going into the oven, starts to get holes in it – rather like a crumpet. At first I thought the recipe had gone wrong but then it dawned on me that these were the hearty macaroons us Brits grew up on! Here’s a close up:
These quantities will make 24 tartlets – you will think that you are not going to have enough of the macaroon mix....but you will!
Puff pastry – I used 3 pre-rolled sheets
Raspberry jam to spoon into the bottom of each pastry case
4 egg whites
120g (4oz) ground almonds
180g (6oz) caster sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
60g (2oz) rice flour – I used Tesco brown rice flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/fan oven 180˚C/390˚F/Gas mark 6
Grease two cupcake pans with butter or cake release spray – I used cake release and they came out clean as a whistle.
Using a round biscuit cutter, cut out pastry disks and line each patty pan.
Spoon a little raspberry jam into each pastry case and put to one side.
Now make the topping: place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until they are frothy but not yet at the soft peak stage.
Add the ground almonds, sugar and almond extract and beat until thick and well combined. The recipes states this will take 1o minutes. Mine thickened a little but was always runny.
Stir in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar; make sure you lift up all the ingredients from the bottom of the bowl as the almond tends to sink.
Spoon a generous tablespoon of mixture over the jam and ensure that no jam is visible (it will bubble up and spoil the look). Don’t worry that the macaroon mix is thin and runny.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the macaroon is no longer wet and the pastry looks cooked.
Leave to cool in the tins until you can safely handle the tin then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
The tarts will keep in an airtight container for several days.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.