Foraging,  Recipes

A recipe for Sloes that isn’t Gin – Pear and Sloe Treacle Tart

Now that Sloes are filling the hedgerows I decided to wanted to make something a bit different. Much of what was online included the typical Sloe Gin, Sloe Rum or Sloe Syrups, however I wanted to combine both the sloes I had collected and the abundance or pears in the garden. As Sloes produce a more bitter flavour, I decided on a pudding that (for me) is a little too sweet, which the sloes will help to counteract – Treacle Tart. This spin off of a famous desert has turned out so great it’s a struggle to have only one slice!

What are Sloes?

Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn, a thorny small tree that is often found in hedgerows. The purple/ black round fruits have a dusty appearance and have a large stone in the center. These fruits are not sweet, so tend to be cooked with sugar or added to alcohol to make them palatable.

When to pick?

There is a lot of speculation as to when is the best time to pick sloes, and in my opinion this depends on what you are going to use them for. Popular opinion states that the sloes should be picked after the first frost. This is likely to be more a measurement of time, allowing the sloes to get fully ripe and hence, have the most flavour. When making gin this is also a useful technique as this enables the skin of the berries to split with ease making the process of preparing sloe gin an easier and less laborious process.

This year we have had a remarkable amount of sun and hence the berries are plump and ripe. I am using the sloes in my recipe to make a normally very sweet pudding and little less sweet, hence slightly earlier in the season was a perfect time to pick.

The process

Making the syrup

Although wanting to make something different, it was almost impossible to get away with not making the trusty sloe syrup. There are so many recipes online for this, but I just wanted a basic syrup with no added spices as an addition to my tart. The process was so easy using just 3 ingredients, the sloes were cooked up with dark brown sugar and water.

The quantities I used in the recipe below makes enough syrup for 2 tarts, or extra syrup to be used in other recipes, as a cordial or a topping for porridge (Recently I have been adding most things I forage to my porridge!).

Making the pastry

If needs be, this is a step you can skip. You can get excellent pre-made shortcrust pastry, and it makes the whole process of baking (especially if you are a beginner) more approachable. I went about making the pastry, using a combination of plain white flour, wholemeal and oatmeal. This gave a wonderful crumbly wholesome crust. It is a little difficult to handle, but don’t worry if it breaks when transferring to the tin, moulding it into cracks and holes is a totally acceptable and viable solution. A pre-bake is required for the crust before the filling is added. To maintain the shape baking beads, lentils or rice are often used to weigh down the pastry and create the pie shape.

Making the filling

This part is fairly straight forward. I used a combination of golden syrup and sloe syrup with a 50/50 spilt. For me this was the perfect level of sweetness, not too sweet but also not too tart. The syrups are combined with bread crumbs, oats and egg to create a gooey filling for the tart base.

The finishing touches

Before baking add some thin slices of pear to the top and sprinkle demerara sugar across the surface to create a crispy caramalised surface. This pie can be eaten cold or warm and goes nicely with a serving of cream or a ball of ice cream.

How will you be using sloe’s this year?

Pear and Sloe Treacle Tart

An adaptation on the traditional treacle tart that is a little less sweet and uses some foraged goodies!
Prep Time 1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 5 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Traditional
Servings 12

Equipment

  • Food Processor (optional)

Ingredients
  

Sloe Syrup

  • 500 g Sloes
  • 400 g Dark brown sugar
  • 250 ml Water

Pastry

  • 130 g Plain Flour
  • 50 g Wholemeal Flour
  • 60 g Oatmeal
  • 120 g Salted Butter (replace with vegan butter to make recipe vegan)

Filling

  • 200 ml Sloe Syrup
  • 200 ml Golden Syrup
  • 75 g Breadcrumbs
  • 75 g Oats
  • 2 Eggs (Use egg replacement for vegan recipe – See plantain egg post on my blog)

Toppings

  • 2 Pears (thinly Sliced)
  • 1 tbsp Demerara Sugar

Instructions
 

Sloe Syrup

  • Thoroughly wash the Sloes
  • Add all the ingredients to a pan and simmer for 45 minutes
  • Using a fine mesh sieve separate the syrup, slightly mashing the berries in the sieve to help the syrup pass through

Making the Pastry (skip to step 5 if you are using shop brought pastry)

  • Add flours and oatmeal to a bowl with the butter (cubed)
  • Mix with fingers, squeezing and separating gently until the mixture resembles a breadcrumb texture
  • Add 1 dps of cold water and form into a ball
  • Wrap in clingfilm and chill in fridge for 30 minutes
  • Sprinkle flour on your rolling surface and roll the pastry to approximately the thickness of a £1 coin
  • Place in a round flan tin approximately 20cm across
  • Using baking beads, lentils or rice as a weight, fill the pie and bake at 150°C for 15 mins

Making the filling

  • Add both syrups to a pan and gently heat
  • Make the breadcrumbs by lightly toasting the bread and adding to a food processor. Again to make this process easier, pre-made breadcrumbs can be purchased.
  • Add breadcrumbs and oats and mix until combined
  • Whisk eggs and add to the mixture

Making the Tart

  • Add the filling to the crust
  • Peel and finely cut the pears into slices and arrange in a pattern on top of the pie
  • Sprinkle the demerara across the surface of the tart
  • Bake at 150°C for 35 minutes until the pie has fully set
  • Enjoy hot or chilled with ice cream or cream

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