Passports at the ready, because we’re off on our travels again; all the way across the Pennine hills and down into deepest, darkest Lancashire.

I know this may make some of you nervous! I suppose it’s my age, but I’ve never really understood this pointless rivalry with Lancashire.

Perhaps it’s just my worldview; I like to think of myself as a Northern European primarily, and an Englishman. After that, it’s just a set of arbitrary lines drawn on maps in my opinion.

The Pennines are just as beautiful and windswept, be they in Derbyshire, Lancashire or Yorkshire, and we’re all smashing folk up here.

Manchester used to terrify me; I was used to Leeds, familiar with its streets, arcades and shops after years of traipsing round with my family and friends.

On the odd occasion I would venture across into the red rose county, I’d feel terribly lost and out-of-place. Manchester seemed to be a vast, looming place, oppressive and labyrinthine. But over the years, I’ve come to realise it’s one of Europe’s great cities.

The architecture is magnificent - huge, solid slabs of austere, no-nonsense stone. And where once was a true culinary wasteland, which always bemused me, given the size of the place, there is now one of the country’s finest restaurant scenes.

Everything from steakhouses to burgers, from tapas to dim-sum, and with some exceptional top-end dining rooms, such as Simon Rogan’s The French, where you can try his incredibly exciting wild Northern cuisine.

Many chefs are also re-appropriating the local traditional recipes, too.

For years chefs such as Nigel Haworth, Robert Owen Brown and Mary-Ellen McTague have been delighting customers with their versions of Lancastrian treats such as Bury’s famous ‘parched peas & vinegar’ and the legendary hotpot, or by using Manx kippers, Morecambe Bay shrimps or Bury black pudding in their recipes.

All of which brings us to this week’s Mancunian recipe. I always wonder how Manchester Tart came to be, given its topping of coconut; there aren’t many coconut palms in Whalley Range, after all.

I imagine it’s something to do with the closeness to Liverpool and its maritime trading legacy.

The tart itself first appeared in Mrs Beeton’s book as a ‘Manchester Pudding’, essentially the tart without the pastry case, and using damson jam, but over the years it has become ever more refined until now it’s one of the north’s finest pastry constructions – a crisp shortcrust base with a thick layer of raspberry jam above which is set a quivering vanilla custard.

I like to make my own raspberry filling; you can use bought jam, but it’s really worth the effort. The whole thing is then covered with desiccated coconut, which is the masterstroke. It tastes heavenly; a whirl of sugary, coconut-y deliciousness with that tart fruit and buttery, crunchy pastry.

I always remember that, during the period I was consulting for a certain supermarket’s pastry department, I visited their bakery over in Oldham many times, and was fascinated by the Manchester Tart line, watching the many hundreds of identical tarts slowly funnelling towards one person at the end of the conveyor, and whose job it was to flick a lever once per tart, dispensing an even ‘whoomph’ of coconut.

I always hoped he got to swap jobs occasionally – a shift of several hours doing only that must have been soul-destroying!

We, thankfully, get to do it just the once, and the result is a wonderful, fragrant tea-time tart that’s the perfect afternoon treat.

So put your pride aside, and let’s head across the border...


250g plain flour

125g unsalted butter

90g caster sugar

1 large egg

Chilled water

Pinch of fine salt


250g fresh raspberries

125g unrefined golden caster sugar

A splash of fresh lemon juice


10 free-range egg yolks

100g unrefined golden caster sugar

500ml whipping cream

250ml full milk

1 tsp vanilla extract


1 x 21cm tart tin with removable base

A few tablespoons desiccated coconut

Baking beans and parchment

1 egg yolk, beaten


First, make the fridge jam; place the raspberries, the sugar and the lemon juice in a non-reactive pan over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil.

Press the fruit gently as it bubbles away, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the mixture even. Decant into a suitable tub and refrigerate until required.

Now to make the pastry; by hand, or in a processor, whizz the flour, sugar and butter together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

With the power still on, add the egg and then a trickle of chilled water, until it just brings the pastry together into a medium-soft dough.

Shape into a rough thick disc by hand, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour. Heat the oven to 200ºC/Gas 6.

Roll out the pastry in a rough circle, about the thickness of a pound coin. Line the tin with the pastry, pushing it into the corners, and trim off the excess, leaving a lip of about 3-4cm, then cut out a slightly larger disc of baking parchment.

Screw it into a tight ball, then carefully unfold it and push it gently into the pastry case, making sure it gets to every corner.

Fill the case with baking beans and chill the tart for another hour. Bake the tart for about 20 minutes, or until it is set and pale golden in colour, then remove the parchment carefully and bake for a further 5 minutes to fully cook the base.

Brush with the egg yolk all around to ensure a watertight seal. Reduce the oven to 140ºC/Gas 1.

In a bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar and vanilla until smooth, then add the cream and milk. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the custard reaches blood temperature. Pour through a sieve into a suitable jug.

Set the tart on a lipped baking tray.

Spoon a generous layer of raspberry jam over the base of the tart, and then carefully pour in the custard. I like to do this as it’s in the oven to avoid spillage, and I use the back of a spoon to stop the stream from dislodging the jam too much.

Bake the tart for at least half an hour, until the custard is barely set, then carefully sprinkle over the coconut and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and cool on a wire rack until cold.

Trim the excess pastry with a sharp serrated knife and serve the tart in generous wedges.