Even before I begin writing this week's recipe, the historical nature of the strawberry tart is already being questioned.
My colleague Fergus is looking puzzled when, upon asking me which recipe I've made this week, I give him my answer. And OK, maybe the strawberry tart hasn't been forgotten per se, but it is still - for research purposes - worth investigating if only to see how the recipe has been amended over the years and what form it took originally. That is my view, at least. The fact that it's my favourite cake doesn't enter into the matter.
Who has ever been challenged to eat an entire donut without licking their lips? Like the sugared donut, and the custard slice, the strawberry tart is the kind of pudding you'd avoid on a first date, or if you don't have a hanky to hand. That's probably why - in my eyes - they're so good. If you need to wash your face after eating something, you know you're doing it right.
Having made a good dent in the Glasgow Cookery Book at this point, I'd like to think I wouldn't be flummoxed should an unusual ingredient jump out of the page at me, but during my supermarket dash for what the recipe requires, I see it: arrowroot.
Is it a medieval herb originally harvested to poison throne-heirs? Or something Robin Hood used to keep his archery paraphernalia neat and tidy? It certainly doesn't sound like it belongs on the shelves of Tesco, whatever it is. And although it's not too easy to locate in the city centre stores, it's there online, so this week's ingredients are delivered to my front door.
With these archaic thoughts of what arrowroot could be in mind, the reality is a little disappointing (isn't everything you build up in your head?). Arrowroot, it seems, is essentially thickener: similar to cornflour in colour and touch.
I soak my fresh strawberries in the tablespoonful of sugar 'until the juice flows'. While they're soaking, I start on the pastry - rich short crust, rather than biscuit, my choice owing to the hope that it'll provide a crunchy, strong base for the tart rather than something too sickly.
An end-note in the pastry suggests adding sugar to the mix - I take that suggestion, thank it for trying, and ignore it. The cream, berries, and fruit juice are going to be sweet enough for me. After the pastry is made and rolled out (with a mini wine bottle - really need to get a rolling pin), the instructions dictate that it should line patty tins and be baked. There isn't a mention of pastry beads, though, which is alarming in a 'first world problem' kind of way, if not an actual disaster.
They come out unscathed once achieving a state of 'very pale brown' (what we call golden brown) and the recipe says to then add the strawberries.
But something is missing. The incredible sweeter-than-a-pug-saying-I-love-you cream filling inside is nowhere to be seen in the recipe, and instead the tartlet seems to be made of just fruit and pastry. Now it's an actual disaster. I mix fruit juice (unspecified - I go for strawberry Ribena concentrate with a little water) with the arrowroot - which I can't even get excited by after cream-gate - in a saucepan on a low heat to form a glaze that will anoint the mountain of strawberries. At the end of the recipe there is a light, in the form of instructions to 'decorate' the tartlets with whipped cream. So, I decide to 'decorate' them by putting the cream inside. Creative interpretation, you understand.
In terms of flavour, they're not bad. I need to wash after eating them, so I must've done something right. But the lack of almost luminous red glaze is dishertening. I want my E numbers, and I'm not afraid to say so.
Here is the full recipe for strawberry tartlets. I'm away to Greggs to buy the real McCoy.
For the rich short crust pastry
4oz shortening (butter; margarine; cooking fat; or a mixture of margarine and cooking fat or margarine and lard)
½ level teaspoonful salt
Cold water (½ - ¾ gill approximately)
1. Cut fat into flour; rub 'till like fine breadcrumbs; add salt
2. Add cold water and mix to a very stiff consistency. Work 'til smooth.
3. Roll out and use as required.
Note: self-raising flour may be used instead of plain flour.
For sweet dishes the above pastry may have 1 level tablespoonful of castor sugar added .
For the tartlets
½ lb biscuit pastry or ¼ lb rich short crust pastry
½ lb strawberries 0r 1 pkt. frozen
½ gill fruit juice
1 level teaspoonful arrowroot
1 gill cream
1. Soak fresh strawberries with 1 tablespoonful sugar until juice flows. Make up if necessary to ½ gill with water.
2. Line patty tins with the pastry, prick the base.
3. Bake until a very pale brown. Cool.
4. Fill up cases with prepared fruit - halved if necessary.
5. Thicken the fruit juice with blended arrowroot and cook 1-2 minutes.
6. Glaze fruit, allow to cool and decorate with whipped cream.