Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Joan's fruit tart

I got this recipe from the Town Clerk's secretary, Joan Botha, back when I used to work for a small town council. She used to do all the catering for the mayoral events herself, which was pretty darned amazing!

Joan called this 'gooseberry tart', but I need to explain briefly: in South Africa, the term 'gooseberry' is applied to physalis or Cape gooseberries. The fruit known as gooseberry in the UK is simply not available there (and - for my money - it's no loss either!). I have to say, this tart tastes best when Cape gooseberries are used. However, if you live outside of South Africa, and not within easy reach of a speciality shop that stocks canned South African goods, all is not lost. You can use pretty much any canned fruit. This time around, I used canned pears and opted for ginger biscuits for the crust, because ginger and pears go very well together. I have also made this recipe using pineapple, Cape gooseberries, fruit cocktail, peaches and pears. Joan also used to use strawberries and youngberries. I plan to try it with litchis (aka lychees) and mango.

1 pkt biscuits suitable for using for the crust (Hobnobs, digestives, Tennis biscuits, Nice biscuits, ginger nuts...)
125g butter
1 pkt jelly (jell-o to you Americans) in a suitable colour and flavour to work with your chosen fruit. Sadly, in the UK, jelly is only available in a limited range of flavours, but you should still be able to make it work.
1 can fruit in juice or light syrup
250ml evaporated milk (Joan used condensed milk, which you could try, but it comes up very sweet)
250ml boiling water

  • Crush the biscuits well (see note below), melt the butter and mix together.
  • Press into a large tart dish (or two small ones) and refrigerate until needed.
  • Drain the liquid off the fruit into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. I have no idea why this is the case, but if you skip this step, the tart filling will curdle. It will still taste fine, but it will look urky.
  • Dissolve the jelly in the boiling water, and then add the juice from the fruit.
  • Allow to cool for a while and then add the fruit and evaporated/condensed milk. Stir well.
  • Pour gently into the crust and refrigerate until set.
  • Top with whipped cream (optional - I tend not to bother).
Crushing biscuits can be a frustrating and messy process - especially if you're using something brittle like ginger nuts, so here are a few methods you could try:
  • Empty the biscuits into a thick plastic bag, let the air out, and seal it well, then roll a rolling pin backwards and forwards over the bag. You should probably cover the surface of your kitchen counter with a sheet of paper first, in case sharp edges of the biscuits do go through the bag, or the seal pops as the air moves about.
  • Empty the biscuits into a deepish, rectangular, flat-bottomed container (such as a lunch box) and use an empty glass bottle as a pestle - make sure the bottle has a flat bottom, or it will take for-flipping-ever!


  1. There's an enzyme in pineapple that affects how gelatin sets (among other things). That enzyme is present in other fruits to varying degrees, so you may have seen the problem even if you weren't using pineapple. Boiling the juice denatures that enzyme so it doesn't curdle the filling.

    Wikipedia has more info, if you're curious: