Military Tarts

Tart 1

Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904), Commander in Chief British Army 1856 to 1895.

He is the person my first tart is named for. All those of you expecting ladies of a certain ancient profession waiting for business on street corners in garrison towns…shame on you.

Back to tarts.

When I was a little girl this was standard picnic fare, but I haven’t eaten or made it in years, but an article on the above gentleman in “Soldiers of the Queen” ( Journal of the Victorian Military Society  http://www.victorianmilitarysociety.org.uk/ ), brought it back to me.

There is no written recipe, it is probably one of those many dishes handed down to us by my Great Granny Pittock. I’ve no idea where she got them from, but I suspect Eliza Acton’s “Modern Cookery for Private Families”. There was a fashion in Victorian times for naming dishes and treats after the famous names of the time. One day, when I’m feeling brave and in need of more calories than are good for me, I will attempt Duke of Connaught Pudding.

Back to Duke of Cambridge Tart. This is a very simple recipe and doesn’t sound promising, but it is very good and delicious.

Line a tart/flan tin with short crust pastry.

Take 130 grams of self raising flour, 130 grams of castor sugar, 130 grams of cooking spread and two large eggs and beat them together. This is the quick easy all in one method, but you can do it the old fashioned way if you don’t have an mixer.

To this add about 130 grams of currants (approx. I tend to add them until I think it looks right) and the grated zest of one large (or two small) lemons.

Put the sponge mix into the pastry case and bake at 180 C for about 30 mins or until the cake part is well risen and a toothpick comes out clean.

Juice your zested lemon and using 150 grams of icing sugar and use it to make a thin glace icing. When the tart is cooled, but still just a little warm pour the lemon icing over the top and leave to set.

Eat! With or without custard or cream, it is delicious just on its own with a cup of tea.

Tart 2.

Emboldened by the successful remembrance of how to make the above, I wondered about variations.

I did just the same as before, but this time I added 140 grams of sultanas, 150 grams of chopped walnuts and the grated zest of an orange, keeping back half a teaspoonful for the icing.

I baked it just the sane way and made the icing the same only just orange juice and the reserved zest (orange juice doesn’t have the same amount of flavour as lemon).

I have to say, it was a bit of a triumph, it must have been because the military historian and number one son seemed to have no trouble at all in making it disappear.

What I need now is a name for it. I want something military and Victorian, but I don’t want any of the obvious names. So, I am open to suggestions. Please message me your ideas and the reasons why.

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Goodbye Dolly Gray

Many conflicts have a song or a tune which has come to symbolise it, WW1 and “Tipperary” comes to mind, as does “Brighton Camp” for the Napoleonic Wars and for the Boer War the popular song was “Goodbye Dolly Gray”.

These days two great wars have separated us from conflict in South Africa which dominated the years bridging the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but it was a hugely influential time. It was the first time The Empire was really challenged and it was the first “popular” war, when men flooded to the colours in a rush of patriotism.

The short comings of the army which were shown up by the tenacity and courage of the Boers led to the reforms which would produce the BEF which went to France in 1914.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because a while ago we were approached by a lady who was the owner of a diary, or at least part of a previously unpublished diary from the Boer War and she wondered if we as representatives of The Victorian Military Society would be interested in it. It covered a year of his service in South Africa during 1900.

What she gave us was a day by day account of an ordinary soldier on campaign and I have had the privilege of being one of the transcribers and it has been a riveting and fascinating insight into the life of an ordinary man who lived in extraordinary times. Someone once said that war is long periods of tedium punctuated by short moments of terror, Charlie (author of the diary), was a very lucky man, because all he got for the duration of the diary was the tedium.

So why was this so interesting?

What has made transcribing this document so enthralling?

And why is The VMS going to be publishing it?

Because while there are endless accounts of battles and officers careers, there are very few about the day to day life of a ranker at this time. Charlie tells us what they ate and what they thought of it. Where they slept and what they did to entertain themselves. He also tells us what he thought of the great events which were taking place near him or which he got news about. Views which are often very modern in their outlook.

We know a bit about Charlie Holmes, gleaned from odd bits and pieces he mentions. He was a reservist, called back to the colours and had served in the Far East. We know where he was born and when, but what we don’t know for certain is if his surnames was Holmes. As if often the case when searching military records, the one you want is missing.

“The Boer War Diary of Charlie Holmes” will be out soon.

The picture is an Imperial Yeoman c.1900 courtesy of “Scarlet Gunner”.

Boer War