Martin Hollis, executive chef at the Old Course St Andrews, reveals the history behind a traditional favourite – the custard tart
Custard tarts have a long history in Britain, and were served at the medieval table where they were known as doucets or darioles. Henry IV had a doucet at his coronation banquet in 1399. Doucets could include meat ingredients such as pork mince or beef marrow, but they were always filled with a sweet custard.
The medieval cook may have used almond milk instead of cow’s milk. Almond milk was a rather expensive alternative, but suited the wealthy who consumed it on ‘fast’ days, when rich dairy products were not permitted. Almond milk was an infusion of blanched, ground almonds and either syrup, water, or water and wine.
Why not try my recipe to make a nutmeg custard tart? You’ll need nine egg yolks, 75g sugar, 500ml whipping cream, freshly grated nutmeg.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, add the cream and mix well. Pass through a fine sieve then heat to 37C, sprinkling with a little grated nutmeg.
Fill a blind baked tart case (10 inch x 2.5 inch) and bake at 130C/250F/gas 1 for 30-40 minutes until the custard appears set and not firm. Remove from oven and grate nutmeg over tart and leave to cool.
Great as a snack or served with a mixed berry compote and vanilla ice cream for a lovely dessert. Serves 12.
Chef’s Tip: Try adding grated lemon zest to your pastry before baking, or nutmeg to give a double whammy of this sweet spice. You can also add in the whole egg rather than just the yolks – more yolk will give a deeper yellow colour, but more whole eggs will give a firmer consistency to the custard.