One of my most enduring, early memories is baking with Grandma. She had a particularly interesting mini-tart tin which gave a beautiful shell-like appearance to the pastry cases and I adored it! Following Grandma’s death, a few of her baking bits and recipe books were passed on to me with the tin being among them. Now, looking old and battered, I’m not sure if I could actually use it, but it lives with the rest of my baking tins and makes me smile whenever I see it.
Grandma always used this tin for coconut tarts, an old-fashioned recipe which you rarely see nowadays. I can still taste them and often got a craving for them, but the recipe was nowhere to be found, or maybe Grandma had never actually written it down – just like her sage and onion stuffing recipe which has now vanished forever. Then, a couple of years ago Mum gave me another of Grandma’s recipe books which had turned up in a box of bits. Tucked inside was a small scrap of paper with Grandma’s handwriting on and the magic words, ‘Coconut Tarts’ written on it!
It wasn’t much to go on but it was a start. I’ve done a test run of a few different versions and whilst I haven’t quite been able to recreate the same exact tart I remember from childhood, these are fairly similar, but lighter and much more crumblier. It could be that I’ve used butter in place of margarine, but anyhow they are delicious!
Use your homemade plum jam and pastry, or take a shortcut with a jar of store-bought jam and shortcrust pastry block from the chiller cabinet – I prefer the regular rather than the sweetened dessert pastry for this recipe. They are really easy to make, great for baking with kids and perfect for summer picnics. The tartness of the plums with the sweetness of the coconut is just delicious and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Plum & Coconut Tarts
(makes 12 finished tarts. Note that the pastry quantity is for 24 – I recommend having more rather than not enough pastry and there’s an excellent suggestion for using the leftovers)
For the pastry:
200g plain flour
Pinch of salt
100g diced cold butter, hard margarine or use half margarine, half lard
2 tablespoons of very cold water, to mix
For the tart filling:
4 tablespoons of plum jam (I found an excellent plum conserve by Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference label)
100g desiccated coconut
50g caster sugar
40g soft butter
1 medium egg
Firstly, make the pastry.
Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. Add the diced butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Gradually add the water, using your fingers to bring the pastry together. Knead lightly, but do not overwork it. Wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge to chill for 15-20 minutes whilst you get on with the filling.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. If you have a fan oven then drop the temperature to 160°.
Lightly grease a 12-hole shallow tart tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy.
Beat the egg in, then add the coconut and mix to combine.
Take the pastry out of the fridge, cut the quantity in half (putting the rest back in the fridge) and roll it out on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin (about 3mm).
Use a 7.5cm cutter to cut 12 pastry cases out and place them in the tart tin
Place half a teaspoon of jam in each case, then top with 1 teaspoon of the coconut mixture per case. The mixture will be just enough for the 12 tarts.
Pop them into the oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, until they are risen and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little while in the tin before carefully transferring them to a cooling rack. They will be quite fragile so be gentle when manoeuvring them!
Leave to cool thoroughly before eating as the jam will be red hot. They keep well for a few days in an airtight container, but we seemed to have consumed them rather more quickly in between rounds of Toria sock knitting.
Now, what about that leftover pastry? Well, Grandma would have put a round of jam tarts in the oven so that’s what I did!
Simply prepare the tart tin again, cut out 12 more pastry cases, then pop a teaspoon of jam into each one. Don’t overfill them or there will be a jamplosion! Bake for approximately 15 minutes and leave to cool thoroughly before eating. If he could get away with it, Mr K would live on jam tarts, or tam jarts as they are known in his house!
If you have any scraps of pastry leftover, Grandma would have popped them in the oven at the same time to cook through then put them out for the birds. Treats all round!