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A Shout From The Attic: Nanny's Jam Tarts

"The little sweet things that did appear were Nanny Bennett’s Jam and Lemon Curd Tarts – both deserving of capitalisation! The tarts appeared from time to time in an old round biscuit tin kept exclusively for holding the confections and enabling them to be dispensed at times divinely appointed. They were lovely!...'' Ronnie Bray tells of tasty boyhood treats.

For earlier chapters of Ronnie's autobiography click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page. Also read his delicious Letter From America columns.

Apart from the Sunday teatime treat of fruit and custard, there was little else of a dessert nature ever graced the tables at 121 Fitzwilliam Street. The little sweet things that did appear were Nanny Bennett’s Jam and Lemon Curd Tarts – both deserving of capitalisation! The tarts appeared from time to time in an old round biscuit tin kept exclusively for holding the confections and enabling them to be dispensed at times divinely appointed. They were lovely!

Nanny made short crust pastry in a huge salt-glazed brown earthenware basin on the scrubbed kitchen table. The short crust was not very short by the time it had been over-rolled into a thin sheet to make as much as possible out of as little as possible of the delicious doughy mixture. I suppose that this became the normal texture and taste of pastry to me, and I have never really enjoyed thick pastry, and that may be why I prefer thin crust pizza.

The next step in the production of these delicate tasties was when an ancient tin pastry cutter cut out rounds of pastry with serrated edges, making them utilitarian and fancy at the same time. The bits of lacy pastry left from this enterprise were squashed into a ball, rolled out to make a few more roundels and then, out of whatever was left, a tiny jam turnover was formed to be baked on a saucer, and desired, it seemed, by everyone

The roundlets were pressed into the depressions in a tart tin greased with tasty beef lard, a teaspoon full of fruit jam or lemon curd dropped in their centres, and the lot assigned to the Creda electric oven to cook. After what seemed like a lifetime, the trays were withdrawn and left to cool as their sweet savour filled the downstairs rooms. Sometimes, the jam got too hot and turned into sticky jam toffee, especially at the edges. I enjoyed chewing these bits almost as much as I enjoyed eating the tarts. A fullness of joy was a couple of lemon curd tarts, a couple of jam tarts, and the coveted turnover, but we usually had just one jam and one lemon curd tart doled out to us.

I remembered these delicious tarts when I was thinking about the drabness of my childhood, but as I remembered them I realised that not everything in my young life was without joy, and I would be ungrateful if I did not share the joy and bright moments when the tarts left the oven and again when they left the round tin. I must try to remember other joys and raise other flags to them. If I do not, I will deserve to be thought of as an ingrate.

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