School lunches – ‘dinners’ as they were known, despite that being a northern affectation – aren’t exactly a memory that creates a glow of nostalgia. I had a particularly bad relationship with the school shepherd’s pie to such an extent that even my mother could see the psychological damage the idea of eating it was having on me and sent me in with a note asking for me to be excused – I must have been in a bad way for that to happen.
There are some things that I only now recall as school food: pink sponge and pink custard; a dark green slime much like a type of seaweed that was marketed to us as cabbage; tapioca, which resembled frogspawn in every way; and a jam rolly-polly sponge that had such a tough suet crust that it was always known as ‘dead’s man arm’.
But one of the horrors was semolina pudding, which in memory was grainy and gritty in a sand in the sandwiches sort of way.
We had a bit of a lockdown clear out and there, in a box of pulses and grains was half a packet of semolina. I have no idea why or when we might have acquired it but neither of us like the idea of waste, so carefully avoiding the sell-by date, I decided to find something to cook with it.
Google suggested a rustic strawberry tart. Strawberries are beyond out of season so, hmm, what about pears?
I cooked up some to make a paste (chopped pears, a splash of apple juice, cook in a pan for ten minutes and liquidize) and chopped the remainder – three for each and set aside.
The pastry is easy if you use a food processor and the pastry blade. Tip 140gms unsalted chilled butter in cubes in with 225 gms of plain flour, 25 gms semolina (it’ll take a few tarts to get rid of our supply) a pinch of salt and blitz to make a bread crumb consistency. Beat an egg and add until it’s come together in a ball. Roll out on a floured board into a circle and chill for at least 30 mins.
I’m still not sure, and when the recipe says dust the board with flour and semolina begore rolling out further I’m wondering… They want a 35 cm round which is pretty large and meant I had to use a v. large baking tray.
Two things: cover the tray in grease proofed paper and be prepared for split to appear in the edge as you roll it. Worry not, you can press these together.
Spread your rolled circle on the paper and cover in pear bits. Leave and edge and bring this over the first ring of pear pieces. I then added my sauce working it between the pieces. Press the edge to crimp the pastry and brush with another beaten egg. You can tidy this edge up or leave it looking ‘rustic’.
Bake at 180C for 45 mins.
It’s a damn sight better than any school meal I had…