Very excited as LondonEats turns one today! Thanks to all for stopping by and your kind comments over the past twelve months! Taking stock of what I have been up to, I see I have made so many things over the last year, but looking through my recipe index, I noticed that something was missing. Japanese sweets? Got them . French macarons? In there too. Dutch pancakes? You bet. Scottish food…ah, well, bit of a black hole there.
To address this, I’m going to be doing a few posts which celebrate the cuisine of Scotland. But let’s get one thing straight: this does not include the deep-friend Mars bar! This has become the modern stereotype of Celtic cuisine, and one which I am proud to say I have not tried. But mention to people that you come from Scotland, and this is one of the first things that pop in to their heads. Not some of the finest smoked salmon in the world, not the fresh soft fruits, not the forest mushrooms or rich fruit cakes. No, it’s a battered fried chocolate bar. Well, today I start on the path to (trying to) change this.
My timing is also rather good, as later this month we Scots will celebrate Burns Night. This commemorates the birth of the man regarded by many as Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, in an evening of haggis, potatoes and turnip, washed down with whisky and accompanied by some of the man’s best-known poems and finally, some dancing as the tables are cleared and the music goes on for a cèilidh.
Let’s start off nice and easy. Scots are known for their sweet tooth, and there is nothing much sweeter than tablet. It looks like fudge, has the colour of fudge, and might even smell like fudge, but it is essentially pure sugar, with enough butter and condensed or evaporated milk to hold it together. It really is that sweet and cloying, but it makes 5 million Scots very happy indeed.
With tablet, I think the right texture matters, and it is only fair to warn those that might want to make this that tablet does not share the smooth, soft texture of fudge. In fact, you are aiming to make something that is quite grainy. That is they way I grew up eating it, and for me, that is the way it should be. You can even see the ghostly frosted fleck from the sugar as it cools on the surface of the tablet. I do like the grittiness against my teeth as I eat it, although my teeth probably won’t last long against this stuff.
You could try to flavour tablet with vanilla or any number of spices, but I really don’t bother as I like it the way it is. Plus, this way you get all the rich flavours of cooked milk and caramelised sugar, which can be so easily lost when you add more aromatic ingredients. What I think is worth doing is adding a little pinch of salt to the mixture. Then simply boil, pour in a tray, cool and cut into pieces. Job done!
To make tablet:
• 150ml milk
• 1kg white sugar
• 1 tin (410g) evaporated milk(*)
• 50g unsalted butter
• pinch of salt
Prepare a large baking tray (e.g. 23 x 33cm) by lining with foil and greasing well with butter.
Put all the ingredients into a large pan. The mixture will bubble up later, so use the largest you can. Heat gently and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
Bring the the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture has turned a rich, caramel colour. At this stage, start to test the tablet – drop a spoonful of the mixture into a glass of ice-cold water, and it should form a soft ball when rolled between your fingers. If the mixture is too soft, keep cooking until this stage is reached. If using a candy thermometer, you are aiming for 112-115°C (234-240°F), but testing with the bowl of water is far more fun.
Once ready, remove from the heat. Use a wooden spoon to beat the mixture. You are aiming for a mixture that is thicker and feels grainy (it may also lose its very glossy appearance) but will still flow. Pour into a prepared baking tray, and leave to set, ideally overnight. Once set, cut into pieces and store in an airtight box.
(*) Be careful! This is evaporated (unsweetened) milk, and not the thick, sweet condensed milk.
Worth making? You don’t know sweet until you’ve had tablet. Not really very healthy, but traditional and it is very simple to make, and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll love this.