Rachel Lambert: forager, author, guide

Winter Warming Sloe Treacle Tart

Birds eye view of sloe treacle tart

I was brought up in a family where puddings were the norm, well at least on Sundays anyway. My mum would pride herself in baking beauitful, sweet desserts, that as children, somehow we'd make room for them, in our already, full bellies. It's true isn't it -there's a different stomach for the sweet stuff.

As an adult, this young training has ensured that I have an in-built sweet tooth, though my craving isn't necessarily for the sickly sweetness of refined sugars. Instead, as a young adult I explored alternatives to the white stuff, and experimented with; malt sugars, fermented sugars, fruit sugars and treacle. What I was looking for was a satisfying sweet that would nourish me, and not just fill me with nutrition lacking calories (white sugar has all the good nutrients refined out of them).

As my interests widened to include wild food, this precedent of enjoying desserts continued, alongside my experimenting, and this winter has been no exception. Inspired by Swedish and German friends of mine making sloe syrup, I broke my October tradition of making sloe gin, and simmered the fruits for syrup instead. Of course, I altered the recipe a little, and used dark muscavado sugar and created a thick, rich tasting syrup that reminded me of something... Treacle tart.

Defrosting sloes and dark sugar

Traditionally, treacle tart is made with golden syrup (refined sugar), so I thought I'd try something different. With a bottle of freshly made sloe syrup, I got started, combining oats, fresh bread crumbs (from lovely local bread) and the sloe syrup. The result - wow. It was delicious, like a fruity version of a syrup tart, though more wholesome, just as satisfying, and perfect for afternoon cake-hour, and very fitting for more substantial wintery desserts. Here's the recipe, though you first have to make the sloe syrup;

Sloes cooking for sloe syrup

Sloe Syrup

Thick syrup, reminiscent of tart plums, mixed with the strong flavour of dark sugar.
Ingredients (Makes about 450 ml)
500 g sloes
250 ml water
400 g dark sugar
Put all the ingredients in a medium pan, bring to the boil, and lower the heat until just lightly bubbling and leave to cook for 45 minutes, with the pan lid off. Strain and lightly mash through a sieve and pour into a sterilised bottle. Sloe syrup can also be diluted for drinks or is scrumptious poured over hot porridge.

Sloe Treacle Tart

A rich and filling tart, and the fruity treacle flavours are not over sweet. The oats and wholemeal flour make it a wholesome and pleasantly textured, ideal as a pudding in the colder months.

Ingredients (Serves 12)

90 g plain flour

85 g wholemeal flour

60 g oatmeal

115 g salted butter

1 dsp ice-cold water

75 g fresh breadcrumbs

75 g oats

300 ml sloe syrup

100 ml golden syrup

2 fresh range eggs

In a large bowl mix the flours and oatmeal, and cut the butter into cubes before tossing into the bowl. Rub the flours, oatmeal and butter together using your fingertips until thoroughly combined and resembling fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and form into a ball of dough and wrap in cling film, place in the fridge for 30 minutes. At this stage, preheat the oven to 170°C and grease a 20 cm flan tin. While the dough is refrigerating, in a bowl combine the breadcrumbs and oats and place the syrups in a small saucepan, ready to heat to just warm a little later.

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface, large enough to fill the tin and line the sides. Carefully place the unbaked pastry in the tin, gently pressing into the corners and slicing off any excess pastry. Line with baking beans, or equivalent and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven and reduce the heat to 150°C. Meanwhile, heat the syrups till warm, stirring to avoid burning and add to the oats and breadcrumbs. Whisk the eggs and pour in, stirring until the mixture in combined well, and fill the baked pastry base.

Bake for 35 minutes or until set. Serve warm or cold, lasts well in the fridge for a few days. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.

Slice of Sloe Treacle Tart

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