Gluten free Manchester tart

Manchester tart with Strawberries

Although I know it’s not the same for everyone, I loved my school dinners. And I remember with fondness, sitting in the classroom, as the delicious (yes, delicious!) smell intensified the closer it got to lunch time, and feeling quite desperate for lessons to finish, so I could get in the dinner queue sharpish.

We were fortunate to have a great school cook called Mrs Dodd. But, 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 behaved ourselves, we got the chance to scrape out and enjoy the left overs from the large pudding tins. The syrup sponge tin was the best; with lots of  ‘sweet gooeyness’ firmly wedged in the corners.

Another favourite pudding of mine, which was regularly served up at our school, was Manchester tart. And, from chatting to other people it appears I’m not on my own with this choice of pud. 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 school dinner 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 
Add a pinch of salt to the flour if using unsalted butter
Cold water

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

To finish
25g (1oz) desiccated *coconut (use as it is, or add a little more flavour by toasting it under the grill and cool before using) 


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6/Fan 180C

For the custard: Pour most of the milk into a large saucepan and pop onto the heat. Blend the remaining milk with the custard powder and sugar. Once the milk has come to the boil pour in the blended custard mixture, whisking briskly until thick and smooth. You are looking for the same thickness that you require for a trifle custard. 

Transfer the custard into a large bowl, as it will cool quicker. Lay a piece of greaseproof (round cake liners work perfectly) directly onto the custard.

Greaseproof cover popped on custard whilst cooling.

Leave to cool before popping in the fridge, chilling then for a further two 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: Weigh out your gluten free flour or mix into a large mixing bowl. Add the chilled cubed butter and rub it in until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Don’t worry if you are left with a few chunky bits of butter, these will blend in perfectly when you knead the pastry. Stir in the beaten egg and then add enough water (the amount you need each time may differ dependant on room and ingredient temp) to bring the pastry together, to form a soft but not too sticky dough. If you don’t get enough water in at this stage, you will find the pastry difficult to handle and it will break up.

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.

Gluten free pastry...requires kneading and working before rolling.

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.

Gluten free pasty base

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.

Freshly whipped custard

Spread the jam over the pastry base and slice the bananas over the top.

Sliced bananas and Jam already for custard topping!

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😊

Gluten free Manchester tart.

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?

Liz x

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. 

*Check this product out to ensure no gluten containing ingredients or ‘may contain’ or ‘not suitable’ warnings on the pack. If in doubt leave it out!

2 thoughts on “Gluten free Manchester tart

  1. Carol says:

    Hi Liz,
    I’ve not heard of Manchester Tart, before, but it sounds fab, will defo have a go. I loved school meals, too, and one of my favourites was cheese and onion pie. They were baked on dinner plates, and the cheesy filling would ooze out when they were cut into wedges. Can’t remember what we had with them, as it was just the pie I was interested in (this was in my pre-Coeliac diagnosis days!). They were very similar in taste to the Juvela recipe for cheese and onion pasties – which I just had to make after I’d read your blog and remembered them. So, thanks again, as me and my husband enjoyed cheese & onion pasties with baked beans for lunch !!

    • Elizabeth Rimmer says:

      Ahh thanks so much Carol. I’m delighted the recipe for Manchester Tart inspired you to get baking. Good call too, gf cheese and onion pasties with baked beans….tremendous! Must have a little go at recreating a cheese and onion plate pie that you used to enjoy so much!

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