In Fond Memory of Gypsy Tart

School dinners, Gypsy Tart, dinner ladies
Anyone for another helping of Gypsy Tart?

Long before Jamie Oliver started spouting on about healthy school dinners, long before even Turkey Twizzlers, school dinners really were really nutritious! Watery mashed potatoes, vegetables boiled to within an inch of their life and stodgy meat pies containing the meat of who knows what poor animal.

Horse meat in burgers! Any kind of burger would have been a luxury in my school days. What wouldn’t we have given for Turkey Twizzlers back then? But, then, there was Gypsy Tart.

Gypsy Tart - School Dinners
We queued up patiently in the dinner hall under the ever watchful eyes of the dreaded Dinner Ladies waiting our turn receive the dollops of greyish brown substances on our plates. All served by the uniformed canteen staff standing behind the counter decked out in their hair nets and caps.

We sat in groups at our little tables on our little mini-chairs dreading that moment when a teacher might join you. “Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you” was the inevitable instruction. I sincerely doubted the wisdom of that when it came to the slippery, slimy suckers that once were sprouts.

And so we forced down the steaming pile of nutritious sludge that was the main course in the hope that the pudding would be something a little more palatable.

School Dinners - Pudding
If you remember, pudding came in various guises. Some good, some not so:

School dinners

 There was that indescribably awful tapioca pudding, utterly disgusting prunes and custard, dried up Bakewell tart and stodgy jam roly-poly that stuck to the roof of mouth like glue and had no jam in it.  But, every so often, the sweet treat that we had all been waiting for would appear. The only thing that could speed up the process of consumption of the main course, the only thing that would ensure an eager queue for seconds, thirds and even fourths if it were possible.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the one and only, the most nutritious (honest), the most delicious dessert on the school dinner menu: GYPSY TART!

School dinners, Gypsy Tart

Forget your celery sticks and raw carrots Jamie, if you don’t still have gypsy tart on the school dinner menus you are letting the kids of this nation down.

The sophisticated dish, gypsy tart originated in Kent and is so called because a lady, on seeing some undernourished gypsy children playing in a field next to her house, made them a pie to feed them. The dish, apparently, then became a Kentish tradition and could be found in most Kent bakers shops.

The school dinner’s version, served from the 1950’s was baked in huge trays and served in square portions. You just hoped that you didn’t get a corner piece which had loads of the dried pastry around it!

How to make Gypsy Tart
If you ever get a yearning to revisit the wonders of gypsy tart here’s how you can make it home: here's the Gypsy Tart recipe:

Gypsy Tart Ingredients:
400g (14oz) tin of evaporated milk
340g (12oz) Dark muscovado sugar
10 inch Pre-baked shortcrust pastry case

Whisk evaporated milk and sugar together for approximately 10 minutes until it is light, fluffy and coffee coloured. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and bake for ten minutes in a pre-heated oven set at 200 degrees C, or gas mark 6. When it’s done, the surface will appear slightly sticky, but it will set completely when left to cool. Tip: It is best served cold.

Gypsy Tart – Official Advice from Kent County Council
If you have trouble following this complicated recipe, fear not. Kent County Council has made a video to help you out (I kid you not): here's their gypsy tart recipe and detailed instructions on how to make gypsy tart:

Gypsy Tart – Not everyone is a Fan
Not everyone loves gypsy tart, though, like this chap describes his first taste of the delicacy on the TV show, Come Dine with Me. There’s no accounting for taste and he doesn’t look like someone whose advice I would follow anyway.

So there you have it. Gypsy Tart, the pud of all school puds. Complete with a step by step guide and gypsy tart recipe, courtesy of Kent County Council! What more could you ask?

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