Tag Archives: edinburgh

Diamond Jubilee: Edinburgh Tart

For most of us, the Queen has always been the Queen. Always there, changing only very slowly. Stability. Certainty. Continuity.

However, while it may at times seem hard to believe, the Queen has not always been the Queen. Back in 1947, she was newly-married and know as HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh. So today’s Jubilee-related foodie frolic honours this earlier part of the Queen’s life. This is a sweet treat called the Edinburgh Tart.

The obvious question is what is an Edinburgh tart? I’ll admit that it’s not one of the most famous pieces of Scottish baking (that title clearly belongs to our national biscuit shortbread). This tart has a puff pastry shell and is filled with a custard-like filling made with butter and sugar, candied peel, sultanas and eggs. It’s similar to certain other Scottish tarts like Border Tart or the Ecclefechan Tart, but with more of a citrus, sunny demeanor (of which more later).

I was thinking for a while how I would be able to make a foodie link to Edinburgh, and it came down to this tart and the less refined Edinburgh rock. Edinburgh rock is like “normal” seaside rock, but made with cream of tartar, so that it becomes very soft and crumbly…which is rather odd, when you consider that Edinburgh is built on the very hard stone of an extinct volcano…anyway, I though that the tart looked simpler and would be a lot more sophisticated.

This tart has two links to Edinburgh. The most obvious is that it shares its name with Scotland’s royal capital. The second is via one of the Queen’s royal ancestors. The story goes that this tart was first baked in honour of Mary, Queen of Scots, upon her arrival in Scotland for the first time. Given that she was arriving from warm France to freezing Scotland in the 1500s, I suspect that she was in need of as much cheering up as she could get. The luxury of the ingredients would probably have tasted incredibly decadent to the middle ages palate. Faced with bowls of lukewarm porridge, I’m sure the Edinburgh tart would really have looked rather appealing.

My own verdict? I think this is a lovely tart, with a rich, citrus flavour, and it’s a shame it’s not more widely known. It reminded me a little of Portuguese custard tarts (the flaky pastry, I think). It makes a nice large tart, but I think it would also work well if you were making individual tarts.

To make an Edinburgh Tart:

• 75g sugar
• 75g butter
• 1 tablespoon marmalade
• 75g chopped candied peel

• 50g sultanas
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 tablespoon whisky
• pinch of salt
• 1 sheet rolled puff pastry (yes – I’m lazy!)

Preheat the oven to 230°C. Lightly butter a loose-bottomed flan dish (23cm diameter).

Put the butter and sugar into a saucepan. Heat gently until the butter melts. Add a generous tablespoon of marmalade, the candied peel and sultanas, and stir until well-combined. Allow to cool until just warm, then add a tablespoon of whisky, the eggs and salt. Stir well.

Roll out the pastry and use to line the flan dish. Prick the base with a fork. Add the filling, spread it out, and bake for around 15-20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and the filling is golden. Watch the tart while it is baking – the base might start to puff up with steam – if this happens, quickly open the door, pierce with a skewer, and the pastry should sink back down.

Once cooked, remove from the oven, allow to cool complete and serve with cream or ice cream.

Worth making? Simple, quick and very tasty! This tart is straightforward (if, like me, you just buy the pastry and don’t make it) and looks spectacular, has lots of flavour but is not too sweet.


Filed under Uncategorized

Auld Reekie and Highland Perthshire

I had a phenomenally busy summer. Running around like a mad thing. Now, this is all well and good for a short period of time, but we all need a break, and what could be nicer than to spend a little time in the Scottish capital and then head up into the stunning countryside? So a few weeks ago, I headed up north.

I started off in Edinburgh. If you don’t know it, it is in my view one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Yes, in the world. A dramatic castle on top of an extinct volcano, the imposing Old Town with winding closes and steep public staircases, the leafy open spaces of Princes Street Gardens and the graceful 18th century New Town.

All sounds very romantic, yes? So you may wonder, why is the graceful city of Edinburgh known as “Auld Reekie”. This might suggest that the place used to stink, but it’s a bit misleading. “Reekie” in Scots can also mean “smokey”, so I guess “old smokey” is probably closer. Look at the city and you can see why – many of the older buildings are darkened by soot from many years ago, but I think this adds to the atmosphere of the city.

But these days, the city is happier to appear under the far more elegant moniker of the “Athens of the North”, a very fitting name when you consider the National Monument. It was intended back in the early 1800s as Scotland’s very own Parthenon, but it was never finished. And so it was left as is, and it now looms over the city like Edinburgh’s very own Greek ruins. But the reality of the name has more to do with the Scottish Enlightenment and Edinburgh’s role as a seat of learning. The city just happens to have some fake Greek ruins!

If you get the chance to visit, one of the most spectacular views (among frankly many, many spectacular views) is from the roof terrace of the National Museum of Scotland. From here, you can really appreciate the buildings that dot the city skyline, and on a clear day, you can see down to the coast, across the water the whole way to Fife. But when I popped up, the heavens opened. A dramatic, if somewhat bracing, way to see Edinburgh.

And finally…I could not resist taking a picture of this statue – it’s Greyfriars Bobby, a little dog who waited for 20 years next to the grave of his deceased master. Now he’s got his own monument and people flock to see him. Quite fitting really!

From Edinburgh, it was a quick drive up north to Perthshire, with the chance to enjoy lots of greenery and long walks in the Tay valley. As you can see, the leaves were just starting to turn, and after a little rain, there was also an explosion of mushrooms in the forests. We went for a walk at Dunkeld up to the Hermitage – a Victorian folly built overlooking a spectacular waterfall. I was last there in the middle of winter, when everything was covered in delicate ice crystals that form from the water vapour from the falls, but in summer, it is incredibly lush.

And to wrap up the trip, we came across a little hidden gem in the village of Grandtully – the rather amazing shop of Iain Burnett, also known as The Highland Chocolatier. As you can see, the selection looks extremely tempting, and from the selection that I bought, they tasted just as good as they look.

I think my favourite was a dark chocolate ganache with black pepper and raspberry (practically the national fruit in this part of the world, so very fitting).

Alongside this dazzling selection of delicious-looking chocolates was something very special indeed. Whole candied clementines which were dipped in dark chocolate. When something is this appealing, you have to buy one!

The assistant (which was also involved in making the chocolates, and hence really knew her stuff about what was in the chocolates and how they made them!) explained that one of hear colleagues liked to serve them on a cheeseboard – the tangy-sweetness of the orange and the bitterness of the chocolate apparently went very well with certain cheeses. I probably should have tried it like that, but I ended up bringing one back home and nibbling on pieces over a couple of evenings back in London with a cup of tea. And very nice it was too!

So I hope you’ve enjoyed a few holiday snaps and it has whetted the appetite to visit Scotland!


Filed under Uncategorized