Although I know it’s not the same for everyone, I loved my school dinners. I remember with fondness, sitting in the classroom as the delicious (yes, delicious!) smell intensified the closer it got to lunch time and feeling desperate for lessons to finish, so I could get in the dinner queue!
We were fortunate to have a great school cook called Mrs Dodd. However, she took no messing from us kids, and would think nothing of banging her rolling pin on the counter if we got too rowdy. Mrs Dodd did have a soft heart though, and if we were well behaved we got the chance to scrape out and enjoy the left overs from the pudding tins – syrup sponge was the best of all, with its ‘sweet gooeyness’ firmly wedged into every corner of the tin!
Another favourite pudding of mine, which was regularly served up at our school, was Manchester tart. And it appears from chatting to others, that I’m not on my own. So, I thought it would be nice to pop together a gluten free version, to take me (and you, I hope) back down, a very happy memory lane!
Ingredients (serves 6)
For the Pastry
200g (7oz) gluten free plain flour or mix
100g (3½oz) block butter – cubed
1 large beaten egg
½ teaspoon *Xanthan gum (optional)
Add a pinch of salt to the flour if using unsalted butter
You will only need to use just over half of the pastry for this recipe. So, if you portion the amount you need before you roll out, it will make it much easier to handle. If you don’t want to use the rest of the pastry right now, it can be wrapped in greaseproof, popped in a freezer bag and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months. Or maybe whilst you have your rolling pin out, do as my mum used to do, and line another flan dish (freezer proof), wrap it well and pop it into the freezer – it’s then all ready for when you next need it! Perfect for popping together a quick quiche or sweet tart at the drop of a hat!
For the filling
600ml (1 pint) milk – full cream is the ultimate, but semi skimmed will be fine
2 heaped tablespoons *Birds custard powder
1½ level tablespoons granulated sugar
Little splash of double cream (optional) I love the additional creaminess this brings to the custard!
1 large tablespoon strawberry jam
2 small bananas
25g (1oz) desiccated *coconut (use as it is, or add a little more flavour by toasting it under the grill and cool before using)
Pre heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6/Fan 180C
Pour most of the milk into a large saucepan and heat. Blend the remaining milk with the custard powder and sugar. Once the milk has come to the boil pour in the custard mixture, whisking briskly until thick and smooth. You are looking for the thickness of custard used for trifle.
Transfer the custard into a large bowl. It will cool quicker. Lay a piece of greaseproof (round cake liners work perfectly) directly onto the custard.
Leave to cool before popping in the fridge, chilling then for a further 2 hours until cold. The custard can be made the day before you need it and left in the fridge.
Whilst the custard is cooling pop together the pastry. But just before you get your hands messy, lightly grease an 8 inch flan dish.
For the pastry – In a large bowl blend together the xanthan gum (if using) and gf mix/flour. Add the butter and rub it in until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs (don’t worry if large lumps of butter remain, as this will blend in when you knead the pastry). Add in the egg and mix well. Then add enough water (approximately 5-6 dessertspoons, but will depend on the weather temperature) to bind the pastry together, to make a soft but not too sticky dough.
Transfer the pastry onto a surface dusted with gf flour/mix and knead for a couple of minutes until the pastry becomes smooth – this process makes the pastry so much easier to handle. Gluten free pastry breaks all the tradition rules of making regular pastry, as over kneading will only make it better to deal with and easier to roll out, and not at all tough when baked.
Dust plenty of gf flour onto your work-surface and rolling pin before rolling out the pastry. Roll out as thin as possible. Gently roll the pastry around the rolling pin and transfer into the flan dish. Don’t worry at all if you have to patch up at this stage, nobody will see it, and it will still taste great! Prick the base all over with a fork to prevent air bubbles.
Pop into preheated oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove the pastry base from oven and allow to cool.
Once the custard is cold remove the paper (which will also then peel the skin off the top of the custard) and whisk well using an electric hand whisk until nice and smooth. You can add an indulgent trickle of cream at this stage if you like – about 2 dessertspoons would be great.
Spread the jam over the pastry base and slice the bananas over the top.
Spoon the custard over the bananas and smooth out. Finish off with a generous sprinkling of coconut.
Pop in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours.
Best eaten the same day, but will be good the next day too. Really hope you like it😊
Just a couple of extra things before I go:
For low sugar diets, switch to sugar free jam and add a sugar free sweetener (to taste) such as Canderel to the custard.
The variation to the original Manchester tart recipe of adding bananas is commonly done so in Manchester….love it!!
Love to hear what other school dinner favourites you may have?
P.S. Should you be struggling a bit making your gluten free pastry you may fancy watching this quick video I popped together…I really hope it helps! Also if using a wooden rolling pin, I suggest you keep it just for your gluten free bakes and wash it in nice clean hot soapy water after use.
*Gluten free checks needed on this product in case of ingredient change or ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable’ warnings on the pack.