Gainsborough Tart

Today we are delighted to publish another guest post from commenter Salada! She knows her way round a pie.

With Pie Month in mind, I went in search of something savoury from yesteryear. At the same time and out of nowhere, I’d had a recollection of my mum’s coconut tart from long, long ago. I didn’t expect to find a recipe for it anywhere. I was so wrong.  In the Radiation Cookery Book, “compiled for the special benefit of the many thousand satisfied users of ‘Regulo’-controlled ‘New World’ cookers”, there it was, with a posh name I’d never heard before. The book is venerably old, being the January1935, 18th edition. This is a very comprehensive cook-book which includes menu planning and oven-cooked breakfasts.

It fell open at Invalid Cookery to reveal Raw Beef Tea, a concoction to give every food hygienist the vapours, being made of lean, raw beef soaked in cold water with a little salt for 2-3 hours (no mention of popping it into the fridge; who had one in 1935?) then, “Stir, strain and serve in a red glass.” What style!

Needless to say, the savoury idea was ditched in favour of nostalgic comfort food, during the coldest weekend of 2012 so far. (With authentic spelling & layout where possible).

“Regulo” Setting Mark 5
Time 30 Minutes

6 ozs short pastry*
2 ozs castor sugar
A little jam
4 ozs desiccated cocoanut
1 oz butter
¼ tablespoon baking powder
1 egg

Size of sandwich tin 8 inches

Method – Line the sandwich tin with the thinly-rolled pastry and spread with the jam. Melt the butter, stir in the beaten egg, sugar, cocoanut, baking powder. Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry case and bake for 30 minutes with the “Regulo” at mark 5.

* This means weight of the pastry: so 4oz flour, 2oz fat etc, will yield roughly 6oz pastry. I checked how much pastry I used. (Who said OCD?)


  • I used plain unsweetened short-crust pastry
  • I used plum jam, about 2 tablespoons spread with the back of the spoon. Almost any jam would do, except bitter marmalade
  • I assumed ¼ tablespoon is a teaspoonful
  • My tin was a generous 8” diameter
  • It cooked on the oven shelf one slot above centre, and I turned it round half-way through
  • Regulo 5 is 190C
  • I resisted the temptation to add more flavouring, e.g. lemon juice or vanilla essence. Also the recipe says nothing about pressing the mixture down, so I just levelled it lightly with a fork and left it loosely piled.

The result was excellent. The top was crispy with little clusters of coconut, the inside moist and slightly chewy. The recipe avoids the cardinal error of Being Too Sweet, the sugar only enhancing the coconut flavour. Gainsborough Tart would work, hot, warm or cold, as a pudding, perhaps with a berry, rhubarb or plum compote, and is equally good with a hot drink as an alternative to cake. It even warmed up nicely in the microwave (20 seconds medium-high). Top marks to Radiation for a simple, reliable and tasty recipe.

Nutted by Salada


Got an old recipe you’d like to try and then tell the internet about? Email us vintagecookbooktrials[AT]gmail[DOT]com

6 responses to “Gainsborough Tart

  1. I am sure my grandmother made something like this when I was a wee’un and I haven’t thought about it for years, but can suddenly remember exactly how the coconut goes in the oven.

    Thank you a for a lovely blast of nostalgia. I feel a sudden use for the bag of dessicated coconut finally…

  2. Beef tea! I remember reading about this in What Katy Did Next when I was very little, and wondering for years just what it really was and whether it was delicious. In the book, it says: “Katy procured a couple of stout bottles, and every morning slowly and carefully cut up two pounds of meat into small pieces, sealed the bottle with her own seal ring, and sent it down to be boiled for a specified time”.

    Some years later, I acquired a book called “Everybody’s Home Recipe Book” which has the following recipe:

    “BEEF TEA.—Ingredients: 1/2 lb. lean juicy beef, 1 pint cold water and a little salt.

    Method: Remove all fat from the meat, and then shred it finely with a sharp knife, putting it as shredded straight into the salted water in a lined saucepan. When all is shredded, let it stand for about 1/2 hour, then put the saucepan over a very mild heat, and stir with a wooden spoon, pressing the meat well with the back of the spoon to extract all the juice, and being careful not to let it boil. When the meat is white looking, and the liquid brown in colour, strain it and serve the beef tea.”

    It also has a recipe for beef tea jelly. Here’s a scan of the relevant part.

  3. Yes, I read ‘Katy’ too, aeons ago, and knew the beef tea theory – extracted goodness, digestible etc. I’d never heard of the raw version, to which my reaction was, “please could I just have the water?”. I mentioned it to a doctor friend who said there’s probably somewhere in the world where it’s still used.

  4. Chicken soup a.k.a. Jewish penicillin: was beef tea the Gentile equivalent?

  5. Jumping Cholla

    As an American Gentile who knows a very many Jewish families, yes, beef tea is the Gentile equivalent (although much less effective) chicken soup alternative.

    The rawness of the beef is the only truly disturbing factor. It just seems like a really bad idea for sick folk.

  6. Quite. Ideas of what’s beneficial change so much over the years.