This recipe is from A New System of Domestic Cookery by Mrs Rundell, first published in 1806. A reprint was issued by Persephone books in 2009 and has an excellent introduction by Janet Morgan, but the short version is that Maria Eliza was born in 1745 in Shropshire and died in 1828. She was a middle-aged woman who wrote the book initially for her children, refusing payment, all the recipes having been tested countless times (i.e. the polar opposite of young, childfree, business woman Isabella Beeton). As usual, the Telegraph food section loves her.
Not only is the recipe section of this book full and frank, there are also the baffling aphorisms of Various receipts and directions for servants to enjoy:
-To give a gloss to a fine oak-wainscot
-To take ink out of mahogany
which become positively Cooper Edens-esque when you read the actual advice:
-To preserve a granary from insects and weevils – make the floor of lombardy poplars.
-To destroy crickets – put scotch snuff upon the holes where they come out.
Back to my tart, after a winter of relying mostly on apples, bananas, currants and tinned pineapple for fruit, I pounced on the first fresh forced rhubarb I saw. My attempt at making something other than a classic shortcrust needs a whole post to itself and it will get it. In the end I made a classic shortcrust (2oz butter rubbed into 4oz plain flour, 1 dsp cold water to bind it all together, leave to rest for an hour).
Cut the stalks in lengths of four or five inches and take off the thin skin. If you have a hot heath, lay them in a dish and put over a thin syrup of sugar and water, cover with another dish and let it simme very slowly for an hour or do them in a block tin sauce pan.
When cold, make into a tart as codlin [a class of apple], when tender, the baking [of] the crust will be sufficient.
[Several methods given, including:]
Line the bottom of a shallow dish with paste, lay the apples in it, sweeten and lay little twists of paste over in bars.
I understood the recipe to preclude baking blind and as the fruit wasn’t too juicy and I was using a metal pie dish, I was happy not to.
I decided against ‘little twists of pastry laid across the top’, and instead did a basic lattice and then added some stars sprinkled heavily with sugar to use up the rest of the pastry and achieve an appropriately rococo look.
I assembled the tart and left it to rest for about 30 minutes and then put it in a hot oven (GM5) – it shrank a little, as you can see.
This, for me, is the platonic ideal of fruit pies – sharp fruit perfectly balanced with buttery, crumbly pastry, some of which is crunchy with sugar.
Rhubarbed by Elly