Portion/Yield:Serves 6 - 8
This recipe takes me back to my childhood. South Africans call this melk tert and, not so surprisingly, the direct English translation is Milk Tart, or perhaps Milk Pie would be a better description. There are some British versions of this recipe (I’m not sure who borrowed the recipe from whom), but the classic English custard tart is the closest. Mr P loves a good custard tart and liked the plate after tasting this version of mine.
Once winter passed by and the season changing slowly, the milk becomes richer and more floral in taste as the cattle graze on the new spring pastures. Capturing the taste of that fresh rich milk in a recipe like this is rather special, but the free-range eggs also lend an important hand to the successful and great-tasting results.
Ingredients & Method
- 500g good quality chilled fresh all-butter puff pastry
- 500ml milk (if you can get raw milk it’s even better, or use Jersey milk)
- 40g unsalted butter
- 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
- 100g caster sugar
- 25g plain flour
- 20g cornflour
- a pinch of table salt
- 2 eggs, separated
- ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface to 2–3mm thickness. Use the pastry to line a 20cm pie dish, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Prick the pastry case all over, line with non-stick baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beans and paper. Return the pastry case to the oven and bake for a further 10–15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.
Put 400ml of the milk in a saucepan with the butter and vanilla seeds and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Meanwhile, place 50g of the sugar, the flour, cornflour, salt, egg yolks and the remaining milk in a bowl and mix together to form a thick, smooth paste. Place the egg whites in a separate grease-free mixing bowl, add the remaining sugar and whisk together to form soft peaks, then set aside.
Once the milk is boiling, reduce the heat, then pour half of the hot milk over the egg yolk paste, whisking continuously, and then return the egg yolk mixture to the remaining hot milk in the pan. Return to the heat and bring back to the boil, stirring, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened, stirring continuously.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes, then gently fold in the whisked egg whites. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and generously dust with cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes or until the filling is golden. The filling will rise slightly during baking but it will settle back down once cooled. Typically this pie has a slightly sunken filling that looks slightly wrinkly, unlike the smooth surface of a traditional English custard tart.
Remove from the oven and leave the pie to cool at room temperature before serving. If you serve it while it is still warm, the filling may be too soft and runny. This pie is best eaten fresh on the day it is made, but any leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days (but the pastry will become soggy).