It’s a Bank Holiday, so of course I indulged in some traditional freelance behaviour and worked. Not a lot, but enough. So to celebrate, I thought I would eat my feelings and make a tansy. A tansy is a traditional pudding that can be savoury or sweet, often eaten around Easter. But I ignored that bit. The version I made was basically fruit boiled in water and butter mixed with sugar, breadcrumbs and egg yolks, finished off with a bit of cream. The recipe used to call for the inclusion of actual tansy, a bitter plant, that while handy for sorting out a touch of ague, is also known for its toxicity. Eventually this, and changing tastes meant adding tansy fell out of favour, but the name stuck.
Today was also the intended date of the annual Pershore Plum Festival, Pershore being very plum minded since medieval times, although this calendar custom was revived in the mid-nineties. It was also once the date for the Marldon Apple Pie Fair in Devon, where it was customary to bake an enormous pie full of windfallen apples. It began in 1888, had a wee 70 year break, and started up again in the late 1950s complete with Apple Pie Princess. At some point the date shifted back to the end of July, but for the sake of the tansy, I combined the two fruits and got underway.
It’s a very easy dessert. You just peal, slice, melt, boil, sieve, beat, combine, cool, fold, chill, and Bob’s your lobster. Obviously I subbed out the usual ingredients and didn’t add that much sugar. The tansy was replaced by orange juice, but it was already fairly sharp. My instructions in Cattern Cakes and Lace had been adapted from a c15th recipe not very rich in detail, like how long to cook the glob once the egg yolks had been added. It’s all very well saying stir until quite thick, but what happens if it’s already quite thick to begin with? So I stirred until the egg wasn’t the dominant taste. And I also didn’t have any double cream, only single. But after the cream tea fiasco, I couldn’t face the hassle of converting it, so kept it as is.
And the result? Think fruity Angel Delight with a hint of egg and the consistency of partially cooked cake batter and you’ll get the gist. It’s a bit bland, nothing that a wallop of ginger couldn’t cure though. Definitely a very easy dinner party dessert that with a bit of tarting up could be deceptively impressive. Although possibly not when presented in a 1970’s jelly mould.
I was sad I didn’t manage to work in the trifecta of food related festivals due to be staged today. But I guess wrestling in gravy will have to wait until next year.
You’ve only got a couple of hours left to register for tomorrow’s World Letter Writing Day ballot. The postcards are all painted, the hat is picked out, all that’s left is your entry…
Baker, M. (2019) Discovering The Folklore of Plants, Oxford, Shire Publications
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Jones, J. and Deer, B. (1987) Cattern Cakes and Lace, London, Dorling Kindersley Limited
Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books